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Childhood Lost in the Shimmer of Mica Mines

The report states that in just a block, about 3018 children were detected to be working in mines. Most of these children have gone as far as 20 feet below the ground to dig in search of mica.

Everything in this world has both good and a bad side to it. So how come we don’t always recognize it? Because most of the times the good side makes us so happy that it seems worth ignoring its negative aspect. But when children have to loose their childhood for us to be happy, it is no longer acceptable to be ignorant about the dark side. Absolutely nothing is worth someone dying for.

When we think of Glitter, sparkle, shine, we instantly think of fun, hope, change. Sadly, that’s not the case with the 6-year old’s rummaging through the rubble with their bare hands in the deep, never-ending mines searching for mica, that will provide a glittering shine to the cosmetic products.

In India, the majority of the mica comes from the thousands of mines in Bihar and Jharkhand, most of which are illegal. Jharkhand especially has abundant reserves of mica. About 39% of the state’s population is below the poverty line so they have very few sources of employment among which working in the mines is opted by most.

In 2018, Child in Need Institute (CINI) came up with a situation analysis report titled ‘Child labour in mica mines of Jharkhand’. According to the report, Koderma and Giridih districts have rich deposits of mica and as result, one of the main occupations in both districts is mica picking. This might come as a shock but the mining of mica is banned in the state and the miles of area had been declared as a national reserve in the 1990s.

The daily pay from the mining is so low that most of the families bring in their children as an extra set of hands. These people work day and night even with the risk of getting trampled inside the mines that could collapse at any given moment. The report states that in just a block, about 3018 children were detected to be working in mines. Most of these children have gone as far as 20 feet below the ground to dig in search of mica. Apart from the obvious accidents that happens in these mines, there’s also a huge health hazard. Some of the common occupational diseases that these children and adults suffer from are silicosis, bronchitis and asthma. Others include, T.B, Malaria, dehydration, and malnutrition.

In 2016, Thomas Reuters Foundation carried out an investigation regarding the deaths of children working in mica mines and how their deaths were covered up. During the investigation, they came across Vasdev Pratap, whose 16 year old son was killed in mica mining. Pratap like many others did not report the death of his son as that would expose the illegal mining going on in the protected forest land. Instead the mine operator had offered Pratap Rs 1,00,000.

A fact-finding report by National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) found children as young as eight, mining for mica. Priyanka Kanoongo, head of the fact-finding mission, NCPCR, said, “We didn’t get any reports of children being injured or dying due to mine accidents such as collapses as it is all illegal and not reported openly. But it may be happening.”

The beauty industry has been under question a lot of times for a lot of different reasons. This however, directly affects the marginalized communities. They essentially work in a death trap for even less than bare minimum wage, only for the big corporate companies to make millions and billions. Every industry you turn to, you will encounter different ways in which we have failed as a civil society. We exploit them, use them and prioritize money over their lives.

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.

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