Narrator: Ringi Kumari has been working in India’s largest coal mine since she was eight years old.
Ringi Kumari, Coal Collector: I have to put all my strength into the swing.
Narrator: Technically, it’s illegal for her to be here, but she risks her life every day to feed her family. Inhales toxic fumes. Her hands and feet often burn.
Ringy: We risk our lives in this work. We have no safety equipment.
Narrator: At the age of 17, she still endures these cruel conditions with a smile.
Ringy: After work, I am tired. I come home and fall on the bed.
Narrator: We visited this young woman to find out why the next generation is working here in this dangerous industry.
Ringy: My mother used to take me to work, but I couldn’t bear to see how tired she was. It was difficult for her to carry so much coal alone, so she asked me for help.
Narrator: On the way to the mine, Zaria Ringi and her mother stop and pray to Kali, the goddess of death. Coal miners built this church in memory of those who died here.
Most official mines are operated by a subsidiary of the Government of India. It is called Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL). People like Ringi evade the police and collect coal by sneaking around.
Ringy: I dropped the charcoal basket and ran. I have lost coal that I collected many times.
Narrator: The best time to avoid getting caught is between 4 AM and 10 AM. In addition, it heats up later.
Ringy: From the sun we are almost on fire. After leaving the mine, we are cooled by the air.
Narrator: Ringi suffered many injuries.
Ringy: You can sometimes burn your hands when the coals are too hot. A coal pierced my leg and got stuck in it.
Narrator: A few years ago, Ringi lost his friend in a mine.
Ringy: While working, suddenly the ground collapsed. It was difficult for her family as she earned for food.
Narrator: Ringi’s friend Lakshmi is only 12 years old. It often collects coal like adults. Ringi’s basket weighs the same as hers, about 40 kg.
Male: everything ok
Ringy: Yes. No, move a little.
Narrator: Ringi travels about 13 km per day. He makes several trips from the mine to his home, where he leaves the coal.
Ringy: Look how far we’ve come. Now let’s go down this steep slope. The road is dangerous and we can fall at any time.
Narrator: When Ringi comes home, he boils coal to use as fuel.
Ringy: It takes all night – six to eight hours.
Narrator: Ringi earns Rs 800-900 per week. He sells coal in the market to residents and restaurants. It’s about PLN 50, the price of a pair of sneakers.
However, the danger doesn’t end when you leave the mine. Helping Ringi to support the family causes illness. Coal deposits pollute nearby rivers and streams, especially during monsoons.
Ringy: It is very difficult to find clean water, so we take it from the well. We use it to wash dishes and floors.
Narrator: Nearby hospitals like this are overflowing with patients working in the mines. Dr. Ramesh Kumar Sharma sees around 150 patients daily.
Ramesh Kumar Sharma: Take a deep breath. deep. I had bronchitis, asthma and breathing problems.
Narrator: Air quality in Zaria is one of the worst in the world. Coal has been burning underground for over a hundred years.
Experts say that when exposed to oxygen, it can spontaneously combust. Flammable gases such as methane and carbon monoxide enter homes.
Ringy: They are highly toxic. Inhaling them makes us sick and vomits.
Narrator: The floor is always warm in Ringi’s house.
Ringy: Because of the heat, we spread the bags on the floor. I’m afraid we still have to live with this problem. If the fire goes out, it will destroy our house. Only then should we move.
Narrator: The mining company often detonates dynamite to expose coal deposits. This destabilized the entire region of Zaria. The ground cracked and houses were engulfed.
Ringy: This causes a lot of noise and air pollution. It makes us cough and get sick.
Narrator: Ringi’s house is built of concrete blocks and slowly sinks into the ground.
Ringy: Earlier my house was high. I used to not touch the ceiling with my head, but now I do.
Narrator: Ringi’s father remembers what life was like in Zaria when he moved here in 2005.
Mahinder Pandit, Ringi’s father: It was good here then. It was fun and people made good money.
Narrator: The fire spread to the extent that BCCL had to evacuate thousands of families from Zaria. However, this process is slow. Many residents do not want to move too far from the mines where they work. Others are wary of BCCL’s intentions.
Mahinder: Now they’re trying to get rid of us so they can get rid of the rest of the carbon.
Narrator: PCCL was approached for comment but did not receive a reply.
Coal consumption is declining in many countries, but not in this country. India is the second largest coal consuming country in the world. Coal feeds 70 percent. Electricity network. As the country faces energy shortages, the government is redoubling its efforts.
It plans to reopen 100 old mines this year. But Ringi doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life here. Four years ago, she got an opportunity that could change her life.
A group of children at school: you write You write.
Narrator: He attends classes for children run by an NGO. About 100 children have joined it.
Ringy: I am studying and want to spend my time mining coal for learning.
Narrator: Ringi has big dreams.
Ringy: I draw well and I like to draw. I also like many things. I want to work in bank as nurse or beautician. I know how to henna.
Narrator: As Ringi ponders her next move, Ringi struggles to find the positives in the dangerous work she currently has to do.
Ringy: I like bike riding. I love driving Coal because I love the ride.
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