Down The Rat Hole
It’s estimated that half of India’s coal is mined in the Jaintia Hills of the economically depressed state of Meghalaya. To protect environmental degradation the Supreme Court banned commercial logging in Meghalaya in 1981. With this new law in place locals soon turned to digging on their property for coal. Nearly 20 years after coal was first discovered the Jaintia Hills – an area once touted as ‘the Scotland of the East’ – the landscape is now scarred with mining pits and the roads clogged with endless lines of trucks transporting coal to neighbouring Bangladesh. With such a large industry, coal extraction in Meghalaya remains completely unregulated and mining is practiced in an unscientific manner that has been coined ‘rat hole’ mining. The absence of state regulation and the lack of strict enforcement of labor laws has also encouraged local entrepreneurs to exploit the cheapest sources of labor: children. An estimated 70,000 children under the age of 16 are believed to be working in the Jaintia Hills.