By Our Representative
Raising a major policy issue, a top advocacy group, Mines, Minerals and People (MM&P) has regretted that the plight of the “mining children” is not the responsibility of the Ministry of Mines, Government of India, which looks after all the mines in India, and the result is a strange “mess”: the lives of children as a result of mining has to be addressed by other departments like child welfare, education, tribal welfare, labour, environment and others.
Insisting on the need to converge between various departments and agencies for taking care of the mining children, MM&P in a memorandum submitted to government of India ministers and MPs cutting across party lines, says, the issue becomes particularly precarious as “laws and policies related to mining do not address specific rights and entitlements of mining children.”
Currently one of the main industries that generate high revenues, the problem of mining children, says MM&P, has acquired added dimension, because the tribal and other marginalized communities have had to fight for their survival in mining areas, such as in Niyamgiri hills, where they were pitted against Vedanta and Posco in Odisha; Steel Authority of India (SAIL) in Salem, Tamil Nadu; iron ore mining in Goa; and coal mining in Chhattisgarh.
According to MM&P, “While almost 50% of children across states are malnourished, malnourishment is widespread and acute in mining areas. Malnutrition is a problem in many places like Rewa and Udaipur (Rajasthan). In Panna, malnutrition among children is the highest out of all the mining areas.”
Then, it says, “Mining children are unable to access schools or are forced to drop out of schools because of circumstances arising from mining activity. Children’s education getting hampered and drop out problems are major concerns in many places like Jodhpur, Makhna, Udaipur, Rewa and Panna.”
Also, MM&P says, “Mining regions have large numbers of children working in the most hazardous activities. Since child labour is illegal these activities are mostly done clandestinely taking advantage of the poor condition of the community. Child Labour is prevalent in many places like Panna, Udaipur (Rajasthan) and Tamil Nadu.”