A regular class in Kujuma Government School is interrupted with a deafening blast. The walls shook and the ceiling threatened to fall down. But in five minutes later, it was a usual business for the 40-50 children studying in the government primary school. This is not a warzone, this is an everyday reality the 5000 residents, including children of Kujuma, Dhanbad face since the past 20 years due to the open-cast mines in the area. The Kujama coal mines are in close proximity to the Jharia coal mines, which have been on fire for 100 years. The residents accuse the Bharat Coking Coal Limited, Dhanbad (BCCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited has been complacent about their plight since the past few years.
The mine is just 250 meters away from the school, creating a dangerous situation for the children and teachers. "One boy was sitting with water in his hand. In a while, it started steaming," says Sonali, a student. Imagine the high temperatures and noxious fumes the children are exposed to. Another danger these kids face is the fear of a collapsing school. The constant dynamite explosions have weakened our buildings. Cracks have appeared on our walls and floors. It can all crumble at any time," says Ramesh Chandra Pal, a teacher at the government school.
The Indian government plans to nearly double coal production by 2020 and the Indian state-controlled coal mining company Coal India wants to produce a billion tonnes of coal every year. But this plan of expansion and growth is shutting out indigenous Adivasi communities for access to agriculture, education, health and importantly laws such as Forest Rights Acts, PESA ACT in states such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha that protect their rights over their lands.
The denial of access to tribal affects at least eight percent of the country's population 1.2 billion people. Bharati Kumari belongs to one such indigenous tribe in Dhanbad district. Along with Video Volunteers, she has made several videos to document and exposes the denial to basic government facilities and apathy by Coal India subsidiaries, central government ministries and state government authorities in Jharkhand.
The principal of the school, Premprakash Dev has made formal complaints several times but has had neglect as a reply. "We have informed the educational authorities with letters regarding the disaster. There was also an order from the DC that it be shut down and some arrangement is made. But I am unsure why this wasn't done," Premprakash says.
The village residents are coal-mine workers or farm labourers, earning a monthly income of hardly Rs 200- 500. They can't afford to send their children to private school, neither can they afford to travel for school.The Kujuma Government School is their only hope to achieve a good education and break the cycle of oppression they were born in.
Will you help them? Call the District Collector of Dhanbad, Mr Prashant Kumar, on the number displayed on the screen and build pressure
This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Bharati Kumari.
Community Correspondents come from marginalised communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories.
These stories are ’news by those who live it.’ They give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges. See more such videos at www.videovolunteers.org. Take action for a more just global media by sharing their videos and joining in their call for change.
Beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna in Purva village, Uttar Pradesh, live in half-built houses while facing corruption and threats.
Threatened and attacked for filing 200 RTI applications in 10 years, activist Nilamani Joshi continues undaunted.