KEONJHAR: Mining and forest workers in the district on Tuesday began an indefinite strike in front of the DFO’s office here, demanding reopening of the closed mines.
Under the banner of Keonjhar Mining and Forest Workers Union, they sought rehabilitation of all the tribals who lost their livelihood following closure of the mines.
Condition of the tribals of Keonjhar has, in fact, worsened following the closure of illegal mines, they claimed.
“As many as 10,300 mining and forest workers in this district have been affected,” said Maheswar Rout,
general secretary of the union.
Stating that mines of State-owned PSUs like Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), Odisha Mineral Development Corporation and Industrial Development Corporation and some private mines employed tribal workforce of the district in large numbers, they said all of them are now leading a miserable life with no other source of livelihood. Some of the private mines that have been closed for want of forest clearance since 2006 are Banspani iron ore mines, BPJ mines and Bhadrasahi mines.
“Even as the Government went ahead in suspending works of these mines, it gave little thought to rehabilitation of the tribal workforce,” Rout said, adding that there are many villages where mining had resulted in irreversible environmental degradation.
Alleging that while benefits of Government schemes hardly trickle down to the tribal families, he said they cannot even fall back on agriculture with rampant mining affecting the existing crop lands. Roads in the district too had been severely damaged due to frequent transportation of minerals by trucks.
A delegation of the workers had recently met Environment Minister Debi Prasad Mishra seeking reopening of the mines.