#WorldDayAgainstChildLbour – Ravi Mishra’s Depiction Of Child Labourers In Mica Mines of Jharkhand & Bihar

India is one of the largest producers of mica in the world, accounting for about 60% of its global production. The majority of mica mines are concentrated in the states of Jharkhand and Bihar, where a significant population lives in extreme poverty, turning to the mining industry for a living.

Known as the makeup industry’s darkest kept secret, mica also finds usage as insulators in the electrical industry, car paints in the automobile industry, and is associated with popular global brands and companies.

The once flourishing mica industry in India was hit by the 1980 legislation to limit deforestation, forcing most mines to close with the implementation of strict environmental guidelines. But, the rising demand for mica from various industries gave rise to illegal mines mushrooming in the country, as a result, poor families and their children had no choice but to continue working in crumbling mines. Children in particular became a common feature across mining sites as their small stature and nimble fingers made entering mine shafts, easier, and sorting small pieces of mica, faster.

Ravi Mishra, an aspiring visual activist, working on human rights, women and environment issues, and the ambassador for The People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, set out to open this can of worms, through his photo stories. Ravi’s work in mica mines of Jharkhand and Bihar throw light on the adverse effects of mining on the lives of children. From the dangers of working in unauthorized and unregulated mines, the long-term health hazards, to the consequences of staying out of school, these photos place a question on the extent of the problem, no many are willing to answer.

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India is one of the largest producers of mica in the world which is a naturally occurring group of silicate minerals. An attractive feature of the silver coloured, crystalline mineral is that it has gained prominence as “environment-friendly”. Jharkhand and Bihar are the two Indian states that account for nearly 25% of its global production. Because of its unique lustre, mica finds wide usage in the cosmetic industry, as insulators in the electrical industry and is also used in car paints in the automobile industry and is associated with popular brands like L'Oréal, BMW, Revlon, Merck etc. The once flourishing mica industry in India was hit by the 1980 legislation to limit deforestation forcing most mines to close to cost and strict environmental rules. But, there was more than enough stock and much more demand that gave rise to illegal mines mushrooming in the country. From here, starts a string of actions which portrays a dark reality. Investigations have revealed that currently almost 20,000 children are involved in mining the glittery mineral all across the country. Everything is done off the official radar and literally ‘underground’ because of the illegal existence of mines. Children as young as 5 not only risk their health in the abandoned “ghost mines”, but also get burried and die in the crumbling dark dungeons. Somewhere around 5 to 10 children die in the mica belt of Koderma, Giridih, Jhumri Telaiya, Hazaribagh, Gaya ( East Jharkhand and Bihar) every month and on top of it, 90% deaths are never reported because of the uninvited attention they might bring. In this series of photos from my work in the mica mines of Jharkhand and Bihar, I will be throwing light on more stories people, child labour and the conditions that prevail due to the unauthorised mines. This photo story is in collaboration with the organisation I represent People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), PVCHR has been working in the region providing support to the affected people by providing basic education to children and vocational training to women of the region. Photo: @ravimishraindia Text: Deepali #everydayindia #life #India #Asia #PVCHR #childlabour

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The mica belt of Jharkhand and Bihar has a good supply of operational requisites like electricity, infrastructure, market, connectivity and human resource due to its proximity to the Damodar river. The quality of mineral here is high, there is abundant demand and the mines are easily accessible. But, there is lack of technology and regulations in the entire process of mica mining which is sadly the only means of livelihood for majority of the poor population. Because of improper education people are unaware of the utility and global rates of mica and they end up receiving as low as ₹80 (nearly 1 USD) for separating and carrying 10kg of the mineral to the collection point. Illegal production accounts for a massive discrepancy. In 2015, India officially produced 19,000 tonnes of mica, but it exported 1,40,000 tonnes. The overseas deals are mostly conducted on mobile phones leaving no paper trail. Currently, China is the biggest importer of mica from India because of its increasing consumerism along with Japan, the U.S.A etc. There are subcontractors and suppliers in each village who rely on the poor, to start with. Truckloads of collected mica are stealthily transported to adjoining places like Domchanch and Jhumri Telaiya in Jharkhand where mica flex is bought by freelance agents and then sold to middlemen for being cut, refined and sorted. Freelance miners, including young children who have no information about where the mica they mine would end up while working in the makeshift underground holes are the third and the fourth layer in the complex supply chain of the illegal process. Finally, skilled men carefully cut and cleave the transparent mica sheets with knives and scissors which are then separated as per their quality and demand. The profits are made off the backs of children who, sometimes, don't even know the name of the mineral in their hand. But ultimately, child labour brings sparkle to the world – the shameful truth behind the mineral’s make-up shimmer and automobile glamour. Photo: @ravimishraindia Text: Deepali #everydayindia #life #India #Asia #PVCHR #childlabour #climatechange #everydayclimatechange #tribal

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

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A spokesperson from India’s Ministry of Mines said that the safety in mica mines was a matter to be taken care by the State Government who are facing mounting pressure from the mining industry to grant licenses to the illegal mines. On the other hand, it is a fact that the powers of the states are circumscribed by the Central legislation, as per the Indian Constitution for the subject of ‘mineral regulation and development’. This interdependency has been there ever since and has taken a toll on the residents in such abandoned places that is rich in minerals. There is another interesting facet of the current government’s way of dealing with the sources of energy in the country. Recently,many popular news dailies have brought up a peculiar and clear connection between the GST (Goods and Services Tax) implementation in India and the renaming of the ‘Clean Energy Cess’ to ‘Clean Environment Cess’. It has been seen that the new energy funds that are collected from a wider range of other categories of projects have been diverted towards compensating the states that stand to lose revenue as a consequence of GST. The minerals have undoubtedly become an important source of money-making for different people in different ways. Photo : @ravimishraindia Text: Deepali #everydayIndia #life #struggle #India #Asia #everydayclimatechange #CHILDLABOUR #climatechange #PVCHR

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The abandoned mineral-rich regions in the country have two main areas of focus- to save the lives of locals and work towards sustainable development of the region. Education is indeed a cornerstone in creating the most important base for everyone. Some responsible business practices and sustained collaborative measures like quality assurance and adherence to factory standards are some basic ways to start with. Another idea of selling the mines in auction is also respectable as far as illegal hoarding of scrap mica is concerned. Certainly, the unnoticed deaths of children who get burried and die inside the weak mines is one important area that needs utmost attention and help. If the fact that these illegal mines account for 75% of the total mica production in the country is understood well, and if some strict measures are taken to add more value to the human as well as the natural resources in these places keeping in mind mica’s increasing demand in the international market, Indian economy will directly experience an exponential improvement in its GDP figures and overall performance, thus benefitting a lot of lives. PVCHR, our sister organisation has taken some amazing steps towards educating the children and adults in the Koderma district of Jharkhand. It has provided free and basic computer education to children, vocational training to women, along with providing men with farming equipments and related knowledge. Lectures have been delivered to the residents on cleanliness and hygiene, especially women. The organisation continues to better the lives of the marginalised and poor in various regions across India by constantly working towards their upliftment. In this series of photos from my work in the mica mines of Jharkhand and Bihar, I will be throwing light on more stories people, child labour and the conditions that prevail due to the unauthorised mines. Photo: @ravimishraindia Text: Deepali #everydayindia #life #India #Asia #PVCHR #childlabour #everydayclimatechange

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This work is in collaboration with the organisation Ravi Mishra represents – People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR). PVCHR has been working in the region providing support to the affected people by providing basic education to children and vocational training to women of the region.

Photo Credits : Ravi Mishra

Words By : Leher

Leher

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