Sanjay Tukaram Devgadhe, a resident of Baranj, worked at the mine for a month as a daily wage labourer. “We were paid Rs 180 for a day’s work, but the payment was never regular. I got the wages for the last week of my employment a month after I left the job. We were only provided with boots. I never saw anyone wear a safety helmet in all the time I worked there. The conditions were pretty bad for us.”
Villagers around the mining areas have to tackle rampant alcoholism.
A five-year struggle led by 1,543 self-help groups, mosque committees, 91 social organizations and 551 Gram Panchayats led to Chandrapur being declared a dry district in January 2015. Women across the district led marches demanding a blanket ban on alcohol consumption. Illicit alcohol brewing became rampant across Chandrapur. Mahua, a traditional natural intoxicant, was sourced from the nearby forests to be sold in Baranj and various mining villages.
Continued brewing of Mahua depleted its source, leading to people resorting to brewing liquor laced with deadly chemicals. Devgadhe said, “Miners often used to drink from a local bar before going into the mine and after their shift. Alcoholism became so rampant that some miners couldn’t function properly without being intoxicated.”
“The alcohol ban had a lot of adverse effects”, says Godade. “People began brewing alcohol at home using Mahua and chemicals. They used 1 liter of Mahua with jaggery and mixed it with chemicals like urea and alum to produce 7 liters of alcohol. It became so profitable that some people gave up their regular jobs to go into full time alcohol brewing.”
Battered and Bruised
Mining operations have left villages battered and reduced villagers to wage labourers.
Telwasa, 9 kilometers south of Bhadrawati, is a village lying on the periphery of a coal mine run by Western Coalfields Limited (WCL) that has been operational since 1987. Battered and cracked houses litter this tiny village,
In 1987, WCL bought land off the villagers at Rs 20,000 per acre instead of Rs 40,000. Namdoot Tatoba Kuchankar feels the villagers were cheated by the company regarding the sale of their farmland. ” Rs 20,000 was low even in 1987. We should’ve been paid Rs 40,000 per acre for the land which would’ve fetched us Rs 8 lakh per acre in today’s rates.”