15 June, 2021

Fresh Veins

An SC order brings hope to Jharia residents and their 70-year-old burns

Prashant Panjiar
Fresh Veins
It has often been cited as one of the worst ecological disasters in India since Independence, an arid coal-belt region with no expectations or hope of relief. No one here had ever imagined that beyond this dark, underground abyss where a mindless fire raged eternally, a different kind of life and landscape could be possible, under a different earth and sky.

That's why Pinaki Roy of Jharia in Jharkhand just could not believe the news. It seemed impossible. But it was there, all over the papers. The Supreme Court had awarded a Rs 6,000-crore rehabilitation package for the fire-ravaged town in the mafia-controlled Dhanbad coal belt where brutalised miners stake their lives under the earth in sub-human conditions, often without even the benefit of basic human rights. This is the reason why Pinaki feels vindicated. "After the endless ordeal, we have accomplished something," he told Outlook.

For almost 70 long years, a devastating underground fire has been raging in India's "premier coal belt" around Jharia. Half-hearted efforts to put out the flames did not succeed...

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