Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Naxals turn mining mafia in Jharkhand

NDTV Correspondent, Tuesday April 20, 2010, Ramgarh, Ranchi

More than 7000 hundred tonnes of coal is mined illegally across mineral rich Jharkhand every year.

And with most parts of the state under the grip of Naxals, it is perhaps not surprising that they have set aside their ideologies and emerged as the new mining mafia in Jharkhand.

Coal from illegal mines in Jharkhand's forests is smuggled in a highly organised manner.

Hundreds of couriers, paid by the mining mafia, carry out coal everyday in what is a multi-crore mining scam.

Most of this mining happens in illegal mines where work happens mostly at night using light bulbs. These places are completely inaccessible due to strong Naxal presence.

''Say I earn Rs. 200 a day, I pay the Naxals Rs. 50,' says a miner breaking rocks inside a mine.

This villager bears out what the Jharkhand Police made public in a report in October 2009 - that illegal mining in Jharkhand, whether conducted by the rich mafia or the poor and desperate villagers, is entirely controlled by Naxals.

They are not part of the trade, but they encourage it, protect it, and take over 25 per cent cut from it.

And this extortion by the Naxals is not limited to the illegal mines alone. Just a few days ago, Naxals left posters at the Pundi open cast mines, run by the Central Coalfields limited, demanding more than 20 lakh rupees as protection money.

''Interior areas are very hostile in the state. So the question of escaping Naxal influence just does not arise,'' says Jharkhand Mines Secretary N N Sinha.

There was a time when the tribals looked up to the Naxals to protect their virgin forests and mineral rich lands.

Today, the Naxals themselves have become plunderers and joined hands with smugglers.

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