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Promise Of Coal Riches Lures Workers To Indias Wild East

JAINTIA HILLS, INDIA - APRIL 16: A boy works at a coal depot on April 16, 2011 near to Lad Rymbai, in the district of Jaintia Hills, India. Local schools in the area, providing free tuition, find it difficult to convince parents of the benefits of education, as children are seen as sources of income. The lure of the mines is stronger than that of the classroom. The Jaintia hills, located in India's far North East state of Meghalaya, miners descend to great depths on slippery, rickety wooden ladders. Children and adults squeeze into rat hole like tunnels in thousands of privately owned and unregulated mines, extracting coal with their hands or primitive tools and no safety equipment. Workers can earn as much as 150 USD per week or 30,000 Rupees per month, significantly higher than the national average of 15 USD per day. After traversing treacherous mountain roads, the coal is delivered to neighbouring Bangladesh and to Assam from where it is distributed all over India, to be used primarily for power generation and as a source of fuel in cement plants. Many workers leave homes in neighbouring states, and countries, like Bangladesh and Nepal, hoping to escape poverty and improve their quality of life. Some send money back to loved ones at home, whilst many others squander their earnings on alcohol, drugs and prostitution in the dusty, coal mining towns like Lad Rymbai. Some of the labor is forced, and an Indian NGO group, Impulse, estimates that 5,000 privately-owned coal mines in Jaintia Hills employed some 70,000 child miners. The government of Meghalaya refuted this figure, claiming that the mines had only 222 minor workers. Despite the ever present dangers and hardships, children, migrants and locals flock to the mines hoping to strike it rich in India's wild east. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
Promise Of Coal Riches Lures Workers To Indias Wild East : News Photo
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114171579
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Getty Images News
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April 16, 2011
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2011-05-13__MG_9974.jpg
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