Everydaychildhood: Ravi Mishra captures the choking fumes, chunks of coal and children coming of age in the mines of Jharia, Jharkhand

An aspiring visual activist, @ravimishra‘s work on human rights issues ranges from women to children, the environment to elections, covering extensively predominant concerns of today’s India. Besides being the Ambassador for The People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (@PVCHR), an Indian non-governmental organisation that fights for the rights of marginalised people in several North-Indian states, especially in Varanasi & Uttar Pradesh and founding @everydayindia, Ravi Mishra has co-owned popular human interest stories with the likes of @DanielBerehulak, @KevinFrayer, @AlexMasi and published his works with leadings international publications.

Amongst his works that have taken him to rural and urban India, across slums and red-light districts, religious congregations and festivals, secretive e-waste sites and election booths, Ravi’s exploration of unregulated coal mines in India and their employment of children is particularly absorbing.

Recently on instagram, he shared stories of children working in mines of Jharia, Jharkhand, where social and environmental costs of unregulated and unlawful coal mining are ignored, where families working in the coal mining belts across India are regularly displaced, where going to school and living dreams is impossible, where coal fire, fumes and scavenging is a way of life and where ‘childhood’ holds no meaningful significance.

Read these stories on @everydaychildhood and follow @ravimishraindia for more of his inspiring work.

Salman (10) poses for a portrait in Jharia, Jharkhand. I dream of becoming an engineer and help my family by getting a Job where I can earn more then 100 – 120 RS (approx 2 USD), I get very tired because we start walking (working) at around 4 A.M everyday, and walk (work) till late in the afternoon. The scavengers around this region start their day long before the sun rises in the sky, a big group of scavengers, especially women and young children between the age group of 8 to 15, begin the first of countless treks down a steep and narrow switchback into the open pit mine to scavenge chunks of coal, which they carry back to the surface in baskets balanced atop their heads. This year I will be sharing some of my favourite stories that I have covered in Jharia for the past 8 years. #Everydayindia #everydayclimatechange #everydayeverywhere #people #life #climatechange #pollution #fire #nature #India #Asia #reportagespotlight #landscape #NatgeoEarthDay #January2017

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Babu (Changed name),6, poses for a portrait in Jharia, Jharkhand. I first met Babu in 2014, a 3-year-old toddler then, whose face was covered with black dust blowing out of the coal burning just a few metres away from him. It was very scary to see him sitting and playing so close to the fire all alone, so I moved him away from it. Seeing toddlers and young children around the burning coal is a very common scene, but, mostly there is an adult around, so I was a little surprised to see Babu sitting alone. Hence, I asked the people around about the whereabouts of his parents. I was informed that Babu had lost his parents in an accident, and is being raised by his grand parents. I have been meeting Babu every time I go back to Jharia. My eyes fill with tears of joy every time I see him, but it also breaks my heart to see a toddler turning into a man, seeing him missing out on being a child. It's heartbreaking to watch him carry chunks of scavenged coal, and not being given a chance to study, play and have a childhood. This year I will be sharing stories that I have covered in Jharia for the past 8 years. #Everydayindia #everydayclimatechange #everydayeverywhere #people #life #climatechange #pollution #fire #nature #India #Asia #reportagespotlight #landscape #NatgeoEarthDay #January2017

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"I can lift almost 30- 50 kg of coal at a time", recounts Gautam Kumar Yadav, 13, who has been working in the coalfields of Jharia since the age of 5 i.e. for eight long years! With Hindi as his favourite subject, Gautam goes to school and studies in fourth grade, presently. Although unable to recall much of his learnings from the subject, he tells that he is strong in the field and can cope with peculiarities like headaches. While appreciating him for his dedication, I asked him about his dream. Aiming high, he said that he would love to join the Police services or become a Doctor or work with BCCL -a subsidiary of Coal India Limited. This year I will be sharing stories that I have covered in Jharia for the past 8 years. #Everydayindia #everydayclimatechange #everydayeverywhere #people #life #climatechange #pollution #fire #nature #India #Asia #reportagespotlight #landscape #NatgeoEarthDay #PVCHR #tybittoo

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"I had discontinued school after my father's demise", says Sadaam Khan, 14. He recalls having left school after his third grade. Sadaam has been earning his bread since 5-6 years by scavenging coal in Jharia. When asked if he would like to resume school, he promptly replies with a 'yes'. From "I'll become whatever destiny holds for me" to "I want to become an Engineer" Sadaam's future aspirations reflect his high hopes from life. I asked him if there was anything that he would like to ask from the rest of the world. He replied, "I would ask for the fulfillment of my dream of becoming an Engineer after studying well." This year I will be sharing stories that I have covered in Jharia for the past 8 years. #Everydayindia #everydayclimatechange #everydayeverywhere #people #life #climatechange #pollution #fire #nature #India #Asia #reportagespotlight #landscape #NatgeoEarthDay #tybitto #dailylifeindia

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"Every time I pick up the basket, my head aches, but it recovers after some time", recollects Sandeep, a 13-year-old boy who shares his experience of working in the coalfields of Jharia while scavenging coal since last one year. Sandeep , who used to help his father in the fields earlier, has never been to a school. On being asked about his desire/dream, he says that he dreams of riding a tempo rickshaw after growing up in order to earn a living. This year I will be sharing stories that I have covered in Jharia for the past 8 years. #Everydayindia #everydayclimatechange #everydayeverywhere #people #life #climatechange #pollution #fire #nature #India #Asia #reportagespotlight #landscape #NatgeoEarthDay #tybitto #dailylifeindia

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Watching Karu, a small child sitting alone on top of a pile of rocks surrounded by coal, soiled by black dust, turning his back to the rest of the world makes me reflect on the state of existence of children in the coalfields of Jharia. The kid seems to have become more familiar with coal than anything else around. This makes me recall the days when I was a child and how cluelessly, at the age of 13, I embarked on an unknown journey of life, with no one else around me, it reminded me of the time when I had to take tough decisions in situations that offered hardly any choices and how I had to work for 20-21 hours to ensure survival. The plight of kids here in Jharia is disheartening. Almost every child lives a life that many of us can't even think of. The word 'childhood’ holds no meaning in their lives. Working conditions in the coalfields are such that a mere slip of foot would result in death from coal fire. Children who have hardly completed a decade of their lives, have dry scaly skin, already. The limbs that are supposed to be nurtured with oil and sports are found smeared in coal and black dust. The air that they respire does no good, either. Their faces are smudged with ashes and soot. Their growth stunted. It is difficult to digest the fact that children as young as 5 get up at 4 in the morning and walk for hours- only to earn a living! It feels terrible to watch such small kids scavenging coal, picking up numerous baskets, making countless treks up and down the hills, getting stained with black coal in a dangerously polluted and unsafe region, leaving behind their childhood- only to find means of survival. But, there's a gleam of hope that comes out of their sparkling eyes as they speak. The smile that shoves off every dust particle on their face overpowers all odds.
 @thevisualactivist for #everydayindia #PVCHR #u4humanrights #India #Asia #everydayclimatechange #everydayeverywhere #tybitto #reportagespotlight #Jharia

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Photo Credits : Ravi Mishra

Words By : Leher


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