Monday, 1 December 2014

Largest widow community and red sandstone mining, Rajasthan,India - strange places 04

Mehran Gadh,red sand stone building, Rajasthan. solankiartistry,com
As the beauty and appearance of the buildings are enhanced, the eye-catching red sandstones of various shades of Rajasthan are increasingly being used in construction works in many parts of India and the mining activities here are going in full swing. As a matter of fact for more than 100 years plus Rajasthan sandstone mines have been supplying red stones for construction work. The British during their colonial days extensively used these stones for public building for decorative purposes. The famous red fort built by the Mogul king Akbar and the Rastrapathi Bhavan in Delhi are made of this kind of red stones. These high quality stones are extensively mined from Karauli-Dholpur and Bharatpur areas of Rajasthan to meet the  ever-increasing demands from various parts of India.

Red sandstone slabs, Rajasthan,India.

The irony is these beautiful red stones are mute spectators of hard working miners whose lives are are fraught with sadness, indignation and pathos. General public hardly ever know that the above mining belt accounts for the largest number of young widows in India, most of them below 40 years of age. Reason : The deadly disease of silicosis has taken away the lives of numerous young bred winners in the families - men mostly in their 40s, leaving behind their young poor widows  who have to bear the brunt of their husband's medical treatment expenses,etc.

Karauli is one of the 19 districts in Rajasthan where thousands of mine workers are battling with silicosis and other lung related respiratory problems caused by inhaling powder-dust containing crystalline silica during mining operations like blasting, drilling,cutting blocks into slabs, etc. They don't take any precautions as stipulated by the government, and consequently these worker on the days of operations, inhale a large dosage of dust. There is no help whatsoever  from the government, because they work in the illegal mines operated by stone mafias. The mining acts don' cover the illegal workers. Further, Rajasthan has 32,000 mines where two million people are employd and majority of them suffer from various stages of silicosis and associated TB (tuberculoss). There are only only seven Pneumoconiosis Board centers to diagnose silicosis and to cater to the large number of patients.Hence, the workers are forced to see private clinics where the medical treatment costs are exorbitant, which they can't afford.

The people, who work in the mines mostly belong to Bairwa and other schedule caste communities, and they are the poorest among the poor. If death of the bred winners in the families occurs at  frequent intervals, more and more people are further pushed to the edge of poverty leaving them out in despair, dejection and helplessness. More than 70 men from 60 families have died in the last few years of silicosis caused by inhalation of dust containing free crystalline silica. Though there are government pension schemes for the employees of registered mining companies their awareness about rehabilitation, pension etc is very poor.

Rajasthan government is seriously taking steps to take action against illegal mining operators and to mitigate the problems of miners.

Thus, this active mining belt in Rajasthan records the largest community of young widows in India, perhaps in the world (?). Haunted by abject poverty and despair, these widows have a bleak future and the government has to listen to their grievances
Red stone building,Rajasthan.
widows of mining workers',Rajasthan.
Red sandstone slabs, Rajasthan,India.
and take steps in earnest to mitigate them to some extent.