Mine Labour Protection Campaign (MLPC)Mine workers and their predicament in India
India’s major quarries are spread over the states of Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. Almost everywhere they are worked by internal migrant labour people forced by poverty, drought, famine, or failed crops to take up this hardest possible employment opportunity. In Rajasthan alone, there are 2.5 million mine workers employed in over 30,000 small and large mines. Ninety eight percent of this workforce is tribal or dalit (belonging to the untouchable class), which places them among the most marginalized of India’s poor, systematically deprived of their proper wages and state sponsored welfare and social security schemes. The state of deprivation of mineworkers is obvious from various statistic and social indicators. The people of the mining villages receive no benefits and extremely low wages, wages that do not even match the government approved minimum wage. This salary is merely a fraction of the market cost of the minerals which the labours extract. An adult male worker only receives Rs.70 ($1.46) per day, depending upon his skill, after 810 hours of gruelling work. Comparatively, the daily wage for a woman is Rs. 45 ($0.94), and a child receives Rs. 30 ($0.62) a day. The workers have no holidays, no weekly days off, any medical leave, and no maternity leave.
The Indian economy is characterized by a high level of informal or unorganized employment which comprises 93 percent of the country’s workforce. The term unorganized labour is defined as workers who have been unable to organize themselves in the pursuit of common interests. Constraints include the casual nature of employment (often migratory), ignorance, illiteracy, the small and scattered size of work establishments, and extreme poverty leading to further exploitation by employers. The highly distressed categories among them often become bonded labourers, migrant workers, or casual and contract labourers. MLPC carried out a survey in 2001 that revealed that 97% of workers in sandstone mines are indebted and a majority of them are in bondage. These debts are passed on from one family member to the other or from one generation to the next, and can even cause a worker to be sold to another contractor. Confirming this trend, a report from the ministry of labour, government of India, states that till March 31, 2004, the number of bonded labourers identified and released are 7488, among which 6331 are rehabilitated. (Feasibility Study for Setting Standards in Natural Stone Sector in Rajasthan; CEC and TdH; 2009)
Santulan formed in 1997 as a voluntary, social, non-government organization with an integrated approach of development programs and rights-based advocacy for policy change. Santulan works towards transformation of marginalised communities and sections of Indian society. A particular trigger to its formation was a fatal accident of a child, crushed by a dumper from the quarries. What was found was a life of misery in the quarries and families belonging to the lowest economic strata. The social matrix consisted of the landless as well as homeless migrants affected by famines and earthquake. Most of the families were from socio-economically weaker sections and tribal people uprooted from traditional livelihoods and indebted and unorganized workers from across the state.
Vision and Mission
Santulan’s aim is to work towards the rights and empowerment of socio-economically marginalized communities. This is to be achieved with their active participation and involvement in creating a just, equal and humanitarian society.The overall goal is to fight poverty and marginalization through development and a rights-based approach by means of Education, Organization, Struggle and Empowerment.