ALL 40 people mining coal inside a mine died in an accident which occurred on 23 January 2019 during the illegal mining being done near the Kapasara Colliery outsourcing in the ECL Mugma Area at Nirsa Thana in Dhanbad District. The accident occurred at 5.30 am when the ‘chaal’ caved in suddenly on a large scale. The District administration reached the site after 4 hours. After the accident, with the collusion of the ECL Management, political parties and Union representatives, only a single body was removed and sent for post-mortem, whereas the newspapers have reported 3 more names whose families have performed their last rights.
An enquiry team from the CMW (affiliated to AICCTU) has probed the incident and brought to light the fact that it was the local people and not the administration who cleared the debris and tried to bring out the bodies of the remaining 36 people. But the administration, instead of cooperating with them, removed them from the spot and then colluded with the ECL Management, coal mafia, and outsourcing company to close the mouth of the illegal mining site with boulders and JCB machines instead of clearing the debris and bringing out the bodies.
There has been large scale condemnation of this inhuman action by the police, administration, and ECL Management. The families of the dead persons say that they are being threatened by the police that if they ask for compensation or for the debris to be cleared, they will be arrested and jailed on the charge of coal theft. Fearing this, the family members cannot even mourn their dead. The people here say that due to lack of means of livelihood, they are forced to dig coal for the coal mafia, to whom they gave the coal at a very low rate.
Thus the ECL Management and the administration have together buried alive 36 coal workers. Faced with starvation and unemployment, these unorganized workers dig out coal for their livelihood in Dhanbad, the capital of the coal belt. It is worth noting that 10 years ago when coal workers were killed in a similar accident in Dhanbad District, the CPI(ML) had fought and got compensation for them and also agitated against their being called coal thieves and fought for them to be given the dignity of coal workers; this had to be admitted even by the coal Management and the media. In later days the mafia in Dhanbad captured all these illegal mines and made these coal workers their slaves. Agitations were carried out in that phase to stop the mafia and to demand ‘labour cooperatives’.
It is an outright violation of human rights in the current fascist regime that the bodies of 36 workers were not removed from under the debris keeping in mind corporate profit and selfish motives. This is now becoming the shameful practice in the coal belt. In 2017, 35 workers were buried alive when they were trapped in a similar accident at ECL’s Rajmahal Open Cast Project. It is imperative to organize and mobilize the workers in the fight for social justice and social security in order to end this shameful practice.