Four contract workers were killed and several others severely injured on Tuesday, June 2, in an explosion at an open cast mining site of the Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) in Telangana’s Peddapalli district. While the district police authorities have registered a criminal case and are probing the incident, workers’ unions are protesting over the incident demanding a proper compensation to the families of the deceased workers.
Several trade unions including All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) are demanding Rs 1 crore to each of the families of the deceased workers and Rs 50 lakh to each injured worker. Besides, the unions want SCCL to give one job each to the deceased workers' family.
“Contract workers across all units of SCCL will rage in protest until our demands are agreed,” said Kadari Sunil, state president of Singareni Contract Workers’ Union.
The deceased are identified as Billa Rajesam (46) and Bandi Arjaiah (48) from Kamanpur and Rakesh Rajanna Belkivar (27) and Bandari Praveen (37) from Godavari Khani. According to local media reports, the explosion took place when the workers were setting up explosive material to carry out controlled blasting in the open caste project -1 (OCP-1) mine located in Ramagundam region controlled by SCCL. The open cast mining work at OCP-1 was carried out by a private contractor company -- Mahalaxmi Infracontract Limited company for SCCL.
Interestingly, the Mahalaxmi Infracontract Limited Company was carrying out a mining operation at an open cast coal mine at Paharia Bhodaye in Jharkhand’s Godda district which collapsed in December 2016 in which 23 mine workers died and many left injured.
“A criminal case has been registered against the contractor under sections 304a, 296 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under Section 9 of explosives act,” said P Ravinder Yadav, deputy Commissioner of Police, Peddapalli district.
“This is the first time such an accident has happened in the open cast mining of SCCL. What has caused the accident is not yet clear,” said Raji Reddy, general secretary of Telangana Boggugani Karmika Sangam (TBKS).
“We are demanding compensation on lines of ex-gratia announced by the Andhra Pradesh government for the LG Polymers gas leakage victims. There are 25,000 contract workers in SCCL who will intensify protests until justice is served to the deceased workers,” Kadari Sunil told NewsClick. He added that a proper probe must be conducted on the accident and action must be taken against the authorities and private contractors responsible for the accident.
Union leaders opined that the privatisation of coal mining will put workers' life at more risk due to negligence of private contractors.