Who Will Compensate Lives Lost in Chitrakoot’s Quarries?

sandhya-picChitrakoot district. In one of the towns here, Bharatkup, three workers on the quarries have died in the last 2 months. None of their families have received the compensation due.

The quarrying that happens here is risk-filled work, done by children and adults alike. Incidents of death of the labourers are all too common. One can raise numerous issues with the conditions of work. But the long struggle to access compensation in cases of death or injury, and the uncertainty around whether due compensation will ever be paid, is an even more tragic aspect of life. When the work is contracted by the state, then who is accountable to this labour?

Gonda village, Karwi block. ‘My husband Sabir Khan left home with the dumper on the 30th of December, 2014 at 6 in the morning to go to work on Bhaura quarry. He was accompanied by Budhraj from Khera village. The contract for work in Bhaura belongs to Lakhan Singh. The quarry is very deep here because of years of work. That day, when my husband and Budhraj descended 100 feet into the quarry to collect the stone, it collapsed on them and they both died. We asked the contractor for the compensation due to us. But three months after the incident, we’re still waiting for it – or even for some indication that it will be paid.’

Khabar Lahariya attempted to speak with the contractor Lakhan Singh many times, but he was not available. The officer at the police post in Bharatkup, R.B. Singh, said that there was a case against Lakhan Singh. ‘The family members should make enquiries about this and file a case for the compensation to be paid.’

Rauli Kalyanpur village, Karwi block. ‘My 13-year-old son Dilip died on Bajni quarry, because he was present at the time when the blasting occurred. This was on 21February,’ says Kushma, a resident of the village. Dilip was in the quarry to give food to his uncle, who worked there. When he was returning after having delivered the lunch, the blast went off, and he died.

‘The quarry owner, Indraprasad, hasn’t given us any compensation yet. He’s trying to make a deal with us. But we are clear in our demand for 5 lakhs.’ Indraprasad was not available for comment, in spite of repeated visits to his house.

The Officer in charge of Mining, Pradeep Kumar Singh, said the contracts are issued by the government to individual contractors. The responsibility for paying compensation is of the contractor. If there is a case against the contractor, then the courts will decide what is the amount of compensation to be paid by the contractor. ‘Family members mostly prefer to settle out of court, and the amount of the compensation is mutually agreed upon. The compensation amount in case of death is usually between 2 and 2.5 lakhs.’

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