For nearly two lakh unorganized workers involved in mica business in Jharkhand, the March 2 directive by the government has put their livelihood at stake.
Sami Ahmad | TwoCircles.net
BIHAR — A notification by the government of Jharkhand banning ‘illegal mining and selling of mica’ has put the livelihoods of thousands of mica scrap dealers and labourers in jeopardy. There are nearly two lakh unorganized workers involved in mica business in Jharkhand, a mineral rich state, as per the Dhibra Scrap Mazdoor Sangh, an organization working for the welfare of the workers.
On March 2, a notification issued by the department of Mines and Geology of government of Jharkhand stated that, “The mica found in ‘Dhibra Dumps’ which has a commercial value is to be disposed of by the State Mines Development Corporation.”
The notification restricts mining from Dhibra and selling of the mica processed from it. It allows the mining from Dhibra only to the license holder provided under the Jharkhand Minerals (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2017.
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‘Only means of livelihood’
For the 9-year-old Shamma Parveen from Dhora-kola village under Domchanch block of Koderma district of Jharkhand, trading in mica is the only way her family can earn a livelihood. A class 6 student, Parveen’s earnest call to the government for permission for picking and selling mica scrap went viral on social media.
“Will only DC’s and SP’s children go to school and should we remain uneducated,’’ she can be seen saying in a video during a protest demonstration organized for the rights of unorganized mica miners.
"हम क्या प्रधानमंत्री की बेटी है जो हमको कष्ट नहीं रहेगा। डीसी और एसपी के बच्चे पढ़कर ऑफिसर बनेंगे और हम लोग मजदूर के बच्चे अनपढ़ रहेंगें?"
झारखंड के कोडरमा जिलें की रहने वाली शमा परवीन को सुनिए। ये बच्ची ढिबरा स्क्रैप मजदूर संघ की ओर से आंदोलन में हिस्सा लेने आयी थी। pic.twitter.com/ziaMVSYn9w
— Hansraj Meena (@HansrajMeena) March 15, 2022
She demanded to withdraw the cases of ‘illegal mica mining’ against her father Kalim Ansari and others.
Picking up mica leftovers is the only livelihood for thousands of families in the districts of Koderma and Giridhih. For the last six months, the local administration has come down hard against what it calls ‘illegal mica mining’ and booked several people involved in picking or selling mica.
On March 15, the affected families held a protest demonstration against the government demanding they be allowed to earn a livelihood from mica mining and selling.
Talking to TwoCircles.net, Parveen, who is ignorant about her speech going viral on Twitter, questioned the decision by the government. “Papa dhibra ka kaam nahin karenge tou ham khayenge kaise, padhenge kaise,” (If my father gets out of mica selling, how will we get our food, and our education?)” she asked.
In absence of any factory or agricultural work in the region where she lives, the families engaged in collecting mica scrap are on the verge of starvation. “What I said on video was not dedicated to me by anyone. I will continue to take part in this agitation for our rights,” she said.
‘70% of mica mining in Jharkhand is illegal’
Ashok Varma, a social worker from the state capital Ranchi told TwoCircles.net that 70 percent of mica mining in Jharkhand is illegal.
Varma said that “earlier, the small sized mica pieces of not more than six inches were not much in demand but with the advancement in technology these small pieces gained big importance.”
“These pieces are now powdered, and then converted into small sheets of mica to be used in making insulators, beauty products and also in computers,” he said.
Parveen said that those who pick and sell mica do it to earn a livelihood. “As we were not allowed to pick dhibra, we were forced to sit in a protest and miss our school,” she said.
Parveen’s father Kalim is illiterate but he can write numbers and calculate the sums involved in mica selling. He buys mica scrap from mica pickers and then resells to big traders in nearby Tilaiya town. “I used to earn around three thousand rupees in a week by selling scrapped mica but now I have no work. My brother, who is working in a garment factory in Delhi, is sending us money to support us,” he told TwoCircles.net.
Kalim claimed the local administration had wrongly put his name in the list of people engaged in illegal mica mining. “I was away in Delhi when the case was registered on December 22, 2021 last year,” he said, adding, “I came to know about my name being in the list of accused only six days later on December 28.”
He is currently fighting a case in court that has added to his expenses. “We can’t afford the lawyer’s fee but what else can we do?” he said.
Krishna Singh, the chief of Dhibra Scrap Mazdoor Sangh, told TwoCircles.net that they are fighting for their rights without any political backing. “We launched a signature campaign too. The government has promised to form local cooperative committees to allow the unorganized mica workers to work,” he said.
Singh and Varma are hopeful that cooperative committees will help the two lakh unorganized workers associated with mica mining and selling.
“The decades old practice of Dhibra mining will get a legal status and the exploitation by the local mafia would end,” he added.
Sami Ahmad is a journalist based in Patna, Bihar. He tweets at @samipkb