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India’s coal mines claim four more lives

16 November, 2021Within the space of one week, three serious accidents have occurred in coal mines in India, claiming the lives of four workers.

On 9 November, four workers were killed when a roof collapsed in an underground mine at the state-owned Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) in India’s Mancherial district.

One of the workers had retired in July but had to go back to work after the state government increased retirement age from 60 to 61.

SCCL management has agreed to pay all benefits to the bereaved families, as well as  to offer one permanent employment to an eligible member from each bereaved family.

Riaz Ahmed, general secretary, Singareni miners and engineering workers union (HMS) and member of the joint bipartite committee for coal industry (JBCCI), said:

“The accident exposes glaring safety lapses. From January to December 2020, around twelve workers died in nine accidents and so far in 2021, ten workers have lost their lives in four accidents at SCCL operations only. The unions are in dialogue with SCCL management and are demanding that the inspectorate system is reinforced and that an eligible and sufficient workforce is recruited for SCCL’s mines.”

On 7 November, a fire broke out in a truck at the Sasti open cast mine in the Ballarpur area in Western Coalfields Limited. The driver noticed the fire and immediately jumped out of the truck.

Another accident, leaving a contract worker seriously injured, happened in the Mahadeopuri mine in the Pench area in Western Coalfields Limited on 6 November.

According to the unions, in 2021, there has been a total of 32 mine accidents where 61 workers have been killed and seven seriously injured. Between May and December 2020, around 18 mine accidents occurred, killing 18 workers and seriously injuring 27.

S Q Zama, secretary general, Indian national mineworkers’ federation (INMF-INTUC), said:

“The fact that the government has auctioned coal mines and allowed 100 per cent foreign, coupled with changes in labour laws, the unions fear that this will lead to increased numbers of precarious workers, working in poor and unsafe conditions. The government of India should immediately ratify ILO Convention C176 and adopt rigorous safety procedures, high health and safety standards and protection of employment with adequate training.”

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan, said:

“The increasing trend of accidents in India’s coal mines must immediately be stopped. Lawmakers are ignoring the workers' voice and their concerns. It is time for the government of India to recognize occupation safety and health as a fundamental right. The government should immediately establish constructive dialogues with all stakeholders in the mining industry, including trade unions and workplace representatives, to protect worker’s lives and ensure transparency and accountability.”