Thursday, August 04, 2016

Seven child deaths in two months in India's illegal mica mines which "sparkle" cosmetics, car paint: Report

Mica used to create shimmer in cosmetics
By Our Representative
An explosive investigation into India’s illegal mica mines in Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, which employ children as young as five, has revealed that that there have seven child deaths in the past two months, but these deaths have suffered a massive “cover-up”.
Carried out by Nita Bhalla, Rina Chandran and Anuradha Nagaraj for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and and titled “Blood Mica: Deaths of child workers in India's mica ‘ghost’ mines covered up to keep industry alive”, the investigative report says, that the spark of this mica finds its way into creating “sparkle in cosmetics and car paint.”
The report quotes a June 2016 documentation by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi's child protection group Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), which notes 20 mica-related deaths. “BBA discovered four children were killed in July”, the report states.
It adds, “Dutch campaign group SOMO estimates up to 20,000 children are involved in mica mining in Jharkhand and Bihar.”
The report says, “BBA workers, who have been trying to stop child labour in Jharkhand's mica mines for almost a decade, said Madan's death and the six others in the past two months were just the tip of the iceberg, estimating fewer than 10 percent of mica mine deaths are reported to the police.”
It quotes Raj Bhushan, BBA’s Jharkhand Project Coordinator as saying that there are “no official figures on child deaths in the mines as it is all illegal”, though adding, in the villages where the BBA works one hears about “10 fatalities on average in a month… In June, we documented over 20 deaths, including two of boys aged around 15 years old."
“Interviews with workers and local communities discovered children were not only risking their health by working in abandoned ‘ghost’ mines off official radars, but they were dying in the unregulated, crumbling mines”, the report says.
Giving details, the report says, Vasdev Rai Pratap's 16-year-old son Madan from village of Chandwara in Bihar in eastern India “was killed in a mica mine along with two other adult workers in the neighbouring state of Jharkhand on June 23.
It quotes Pratap as saying, "I didn't know how dangerous the work in the mines is. Had I known, I would never have let him go", adding, "It took almost a day to dig out his body after the mine collapsed. They cremated him without telling me. I didn't even see my boy before they set him alight."
The report complains, “Pratap, like other victims' families and mine operators, has not reported the death, choosing to accept a payment for his loss rather than risk ending the illegal mining on protected forest land that brings income to some of India's poorest areas.”
The farmer, according to the report, was promised a Rs 1 lakh by the operator of the mine, but which he has “yet to receive it”, adding, “The mine where Madan was working is illegal, and no one was available to comment on the teenager's death.”
Pointing out that the law in India – which is one of the largest producers of the “silver-coloured, crystalline mineral” – forbids children below the age of 18 working in mines and other hazardous industries, the report regrets, “Many families living in extreme poverty rely on children to boost household income.”
Interestingly, the report quotes a spokesman for India's Ministry of Mines as saying that safety in mica mines was “a matter for state governments”. Spokesman YS Kataria says, “The central government has no machinery to inspect or control the mines.”

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