In Photos: India’s Uranium Mines Spell Doom for Adivasi Workers
Three miners died in an accident in Turamdih Uranium Mine run by Uranium Corporation of India Limited on 28 May.
Three miners died in an accident in Turamdih Uranium Mine near Jamshedpur, run by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) on 28 May.
Sonaram Kisku (24), an Adivasi contract worker, UCIL safety officer Surya Kant Singh (42) and Milan Karmakar (35), a UCIL general foreman were declared dead after they entered the deepest level of the 255 meter deep Turamdih Uranium Mine, six kilometers from Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, at 7 am on Saturday.
They were buried under the wet radioactive slurry that they were clearing.
The Uranium Corporation of India (UCIL) is a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU), under the Department of Atomic Energy for uranium mining and uranium processing. Founded in 1967, it’s the only organization in India that is responsible for the mining and milling of uranium ore.
The foundation for the Turamdih plant was laid in 1989, but it was formally inaugurated in 2002.
It employs close to 425 people, most of whom are locals from nearby areas.
The employees were cleaning slurry accumulated in the Turamdih mine when the tragedy took place.
All injured workers were taken to Turamdih Hospital, where three were declared brought dead.
Of the 20 persons who went to the mines on Saturday, 11 were contract workers and nine were Uranium Corporation of India Limited employees.
Sonaram Kisku, however, was not supposed to be in the mine.
According to safety and environmental regulations at the UCIL, “most of the operations underground are mechanized, eliminating the direct handling of ore.”
The slurry that Kisku was removing was not supposed to be handled manually in the first place.
Also, he was a contractual worker, not an employee of the UCIL.
Contractual workers are not allowed in these dangerous zones. But the corporation has employed contractors, who get workers at cheap wages to do these jobs.Ajay Hembram, Contractual Worker
When asked whether it was normal for the corporation to employ contractual workers and send them inside mines, a contractor, Triveni Singh, in an interview with Scroll, said, “Which government department doesn’t employ contract workers these days?”
It also reports that the findings of a RTI report show that these contractors do not even operate with a license.
The corporation violated safety norms which includes providing safety equipment like respirators, ear-muffs and safety goggles. In a brazen disregard for norms, they are also guilty of employing contractual workers in a dangerous work zone.
As Sonaram Kisku was a contractual labour, his family will not receive any compensation from the UCIL.
Family members of all injured persons signed a deputation to the UCIL, asking the corporation to offer compensation to Sonaram Kisku’s family.
Sonaram’s elder brother, Bodhon Kisku, has asked for a permanent job from UCIL as compensation.
Milan Karmakar’s family cannot believe something like this happened to them.
UCIL general manager told us they would get compensation according to norms of the UCIL.Mili, Milan Karmakar’s daughter
This is not the first time that the UCIL has been embroiled in controversy over its operations.
In 2003, local tribals in Meghalaya fiercely opposed mining activities by UCIL due to the fear of potential effects of radiation on the health of the people.
In 2012, a mishap had taken place at the Turamdih mine when a contract worker was accidentally run over by a loader.
In 2013, there was a police crackdown in the Turamdih mine when workers demanded permanent jobs, health facilities and other amenities.
UCIL was also among the 63 Indian establishments put under sanction by USA in 1998.
Several health surveys have categorically concluded that radiation from these mines can cause health problems including skin infections, infertility and cancer.
A recent study by Adrian Levy of the Centre for Public Integrity in the US also revealed the dangerous effects of radiation in West Bengal.
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