In a shocking revelation, it has come to light that thousands of children are being employed as labourers in illegal coal mines of Margherita under Tinsukia district along the Assam-Arunachal border.
Reports of illegal coal mines being run in the Margherita region is not new but it has come to light now that these illegal mines are also illegally employing children (these minors are children of tea garden workers engaged in the numerous tea gardens in the area) in mining work. Violating the Child Labpur (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012, hundreds of tea garden workers’ children are being engaged as labourers in these illegal coal mines.
It has come to light that children below the age of 14 have been “hired” by tea garden authorities in Tirap, Tikak, Namdang and Baragolai areas to work in the illegal coal mines.
According to information, a child earns Rs 4 per kilogram for carrying a sack containing 50-60 kilograms of coal which amounts to around Rs 600. These sacks of coal are carried to the illegal coke coal “bhattas” of Tirap by the child labourers. Most of these child labourers get involved in gambling and consume intoxicants.
Sometimes, officials of Labour Department raid these illegal coal mines leading to a temporary halt of work but resumed again later.
An official of North Eastern Coal Fields Coal India Limited, Margherita who refused to be named, stated that multiple FIRs have been filed in this regard but no concrete action has been taken in this regard and the illegal coal mines and the employment of child labourers continues in the region. MLA and other top officials of Margherita know about these things but maintain silence in return of huge commissions, he further alleged.
Ramanus Lakra, General Secretary of All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam, Tinsukia District Committee said, “It is a matter of great concern. Such activities are rampant and the authorities should take actions immediately.”
Lakra further alleged that children consume drugs and liquor with the money they earn by ferrying the illegal coal. He also mentioned that most of the illegal coals mines are owned by the Margherita tea gardens owners. Strong protests will be carried out soon if these illegal drugs are not stopped soon by the authorities, he further added.