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Kids working in India’s coal mines came as ‘complete shock’, says Filmmaker Chandrasekhar Reddy

India has 5.7 million child workers aged between five and 17 and there are 168 million child workers globally, says ILO

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Coal mines in India. Image source: www.amusingplanet.com India
  • International Labor Organization estimates there are 168 million child workers globally
  • The film tells the story of Suraj, an 11-year-old boy, who was born in India of Nepali parents
  • Many workers are from countries like Nepal and Bangladesh, who are often trafficked with the promise of good jobs or are in debt bondage to powerful mine owners

MUMBAI– When Chandrasekhar Reddy travelled to northeastern India in 2011, the director was looking for material for a film on forests in the region famed for its misty hills and waterfalls.

Instead, he found children as young as five working in coal mines.

Horrified yet fascinated, Reddy stayed in Meghalaya state for several months, befriending the children and their families, and slowly gaining access to the mines, many of which are illegal.

Reddy eventually gathered enough material for his first feature-length documentary, ‘Fireflies in the Abyss’, which was released in India last week after winning the award for Best Film in the Mumbai International Film Festival in February.

Set in the Jaintia Hills, the documentary shows young boys descending steep chutes – little more than “rat holes”- with makeshift ladders to dig coal from hard rock with just a pickaxe and a flashlight.

“The fact that children were working in the mines came as a complete shock to me,” Reddy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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“So many of my preconceived notions of what is right and wrong, the state, the law, the police, families and relationships – they were all turned on their head, as it is a very different world there,” he said.

The film tells the story of Suraj, an 11-year-old boy, who was born in India of Nepali parents.

He lives with his sister and father, a miner who is drunk most of the time. His mother is dead.

Suraj desperately wants to go to school but is expected to work to help feed the family.

Despite a law that bans child labour, India has 5.7 million child workers aged between five and 17, according to the International Labor Organization which estimates there are 168 million child workers globally.

A child works in a mining factory in Kashmir. Image source: www.aljazeera.com
A child works in a mining factory in Kashmir. Image source: www.aljazeera.com

Activists estimate that about a fifth of all mine workers in India are children. Many works for more than 10 hours a day in filthy conditions, exposed to coal dust, silica dust, noxious fumes and the risk of injury or death from collapsing mines.

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“Fear won’t get any work done; you need to give up worrying about your life,” one of the young boys with Suraj says.

“But if you die here, it’s a dog’s death.”

In Meghalaya, which means “abode of clouds” in Sanskrit, many workers are from the neighbouring countries of Nepal and Bangladesh. They are often trafficked with the promise of good jobs or are in debt bondage to powerful mine owners.

In a 2012 report, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, an umbrella group of charities, said children working in the mines in Jaintia Hills faced “hazardous conditions” with no safety or social welfare measures.

While state officials have downplayed the prevalence of child labour, the report said the presence of rat holes indicated child workers since it was “humanly not possible for an adult to enter those holes to extract coal”.

In the end, Suraj gets his chance at receiving an education – with the help of some friends, who also worked in the mines.

“The mine workers live in such uncertainty, such desperation, yet there is so much camaraderie and solidarity,” said Reddy.

“Perhaps that’s what keeps them going, and gives some of them the hope that things can change,” he said. (Reuters)

ALSO READ:

  • Aparna Gupta

    Child labour is illegal and working in a coal mine is even more hazardous. Thanks to Mr. Reddy for making a feature film on this issue.

  • Akanksha Sharma

    It is sad to see that these chichildr are not allowed to live like normal children.

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LinkedIn ‘Open For Business’ Feature In India

LinkedIn introduces its 'Open For Business' feature in India

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LinkedIn
LinkedIn introduces a feature that supports small and medium businesses (SMBs) and freelancers across the world. Pixabay

Microsoft-owned professional networking platform LinkedIn on Monday launched “Open for Business” in India — a feature that allows freelancers and small business owners to add their services to their LinkedIn profiles.

Initially rolled out in the US in July, the feature is now live in India and rest of the world and is a way for freelancers and small businesses to indicate they are “open for business”.

Acording to the company, this feature underlines its commitment to supporting small and medium businesses (SMBs) and freelancers across the world.

“With 660 million members and 30 million companies on the platform across the world, LinkedIn is uniquely positioned to help freelancers and small businesses be more productive and successful, whether they are based in Dubai or Dundee (Scotland),” Allen Blue, Co-founder and VP of Product Management, LinkedIn, said in a statement.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is uniquely positioned to help freelancers and small businesses be more productive and successful. Pixabay

Based on the company’s research, small businesses are found to rely heavily on word of mouth, in order to bring in new customers.

“Open for Business” aims to digitise this word of mouth concept by making it easy for members to find, message, and provide references to each other.

With over 60 million users, India is LinkedIn’s fastest-growing and largest market outside the US.

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The company last month rolled out a ‘Made in India’ feature called ‘Events’ that allows members to create and attend events directly on both the app as well the web globally.

The USP of the product is the ability to enable safe online conversations and offline events. (IANS)