Over 10,000 workers have been retrenched in the mines of Barbil-Joda-Gandamardan mining belt in Keonjhar district of Odisha. The sword of retrenchment hangs heavy over the heads of another 10,000 workers at this time.
This region is rich in a variety of mineral wealth which is being ruthlessly mined by different companies, both with legal permits, as well as illegally, over the years. Chromite ore, Iron ore, Manganese, are amongst some of the minerals being mined. In recent months, there has been a hue and cry in the state following disclosure that the state government has been turning a blind eye to large scale illegal mining and loot of the mineral resources by the mining mafia. In response, the state government has ordered an enquiry into various illegal mines. Simultaneously it has ordered the closure of 10 leading mines in Keonjhar district alone. As a result of these closures, about 5000 transport workers are also out of work.
The workers have pointed out that the mines which were ordered closed had regular permits, and the renewal of these permits was due. Instead of ensuring that the proper norms were being followed in these mines and renewing permits, the government has ordered closure.
The Keonjhar Mines and Forest Workers Union organised a dharna for 4 days in front of the office of the Deputy Mining Director at Joda from December 8-11, and again on December 19. The workers demanded that the corrupt mine owners, mafia and officers involved in mining scam be punished, steps be taken to stop loot of mineral wealth, and legally open the closed mines.