Everyday coal is illegally ferried on around 5000 bicycles out of the mines of Central Coalfield Limited in Giridih, Jharkhand but no seems to mind. Shahnawaz Akhtar reports
In the wee hours of the morning, men in thousands cycle down the beaten tracks of Tundi and other roads of Giridih with coal, in the dusty, mineral rich town of Jharkhand.
These men ferry illegal coal on their bicycles from the areas of Central Coalfield Limited across Giridih and sometimes to neighbouring Deoghar and Dhanbad districts.
Officials accept that illegal mining from pits produce more coal than what CCL produces. They use bicycles, around 5000 in number, to ferry the coal leading to a loss of crores of rupees to the state exchequer every year.
“CCL Giridih has an annual production turnover of 6 lakh tones but rampant illegal mining in the area is producing more coal than what we could do,” claimed Md. Mustaqueem, superintendent engineer of CCL, Giridih.
This has been going on since three decades with the knowledge of officials and law makers. The mushrooming of several iron and steel producing plants in the last decade in Giridih has created a market for the coal mafia.
“Earlier a person earned from the illegal coal trade by buying from a contractor and selling it in the market. Now a contractor provides them with bicycles for coal to be transported to hard coke plants for a price. With several plants coming up in town, the contractor is the key player and not the labourers,” said Kamal Nayan Chaparia, a senior journalist.
Summer is the best season for illegal mining and monsoon the worst.
Some sections of the society support the practice claiming that a blanket ban will increase unemployment.
“Every time the administration has tried to impose a ban, crimes like theft and loot have increased. Illegal mining has provided employment to large number of people. Only people below the poverty line resort to it,” said Amit Raja, another journalist who resides in CCL.
XLRI (Jamshedpur) in a report had mentioned there was nexus a between the police, politicians and pressmen that led to the illegal trade flourishing. Ironically, the life of the labour, who risks it all to steal coal, remains unchanged.
The town is a naxal hotbed, and the people involved in the practice claim support of the banned CPI-Maoist to carry out illegal mining.
The Jharkhand government had recently ordered a CID inquiry into the rampant illegal mining.
“It is an irony that people believe CCL will curb illegal mining. How can we when we don’t have the licence to fire a single bullet?” said Md. Mustaqueem.
“Coal is state government property. When we mine, we pay royalty to the government, but illegal miners don’t. It is a loss for the government, the administration should take concrete action to curb the menace,” said the engineer.