The crisis that followed
In the past several years, Chitradurga taluk has faced excessive drought
. Hosadurga being an agriculturally dependent area, this has made life for farmers difficult, with most crops failing. According to a report on regional integrated rainwater harvesting
in Hosadurga taluk, even the borewells in the taluk have failed, and the groundwater level is gradually decreasing.
To make things worse, farmers who had their lands close to the mining area had the additional problem of dust from the mines settling on their crops. Over the years, this has rendered their land barren, and the compensation they used to receive from the mining companies has also stopped coming in after the government seized the mines.
Most villagers who lost their jobs with the closure of the mines had no choice but to find work as farm hands. Devamma is one of those villagers.
“We don’t find work every day. It hardly ever rains. If it does, some farmer might call us to work on the field for a week. After that, we are jobless again,” she said.
Kataiyya in his house
Kataiyya, 64, suffers from the same plight. He says that even though he is old, he must work in the fields to make some money to sustain his family of 10 members. Six of his family members used to work in the mines near Kittadahalli, their village. They made Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000 a month earlier collectively, but now manage to scrape together about Rs 3,000 as farm hands.
Kataiyya, like Devamma, devoted half his life to working in the mines. He used to be a supervisor there, which meant he had to write permits for the lorries transporting the stock of iron and manganese ore out of the mines.
“There is no need for a supervisor anymore. Everything is done electronically now,” Kataiyya said. “And soon the mining will be stopped completely once all the stock there is moved out.”
The Karnataka government decided to auction off mined iron ore, and signed a contract with JSW Steel Ltd., which is among India’s largest steel producers.
The Sajjan Jindal-led steel manufacturing company has since bought the leftover stock of iron and manganese ore from the state government, and has been transporting it out to its factories around the country. This means that even though there are a few workers still employed by the government, they too will lose their jobs when the stock is cleared out.
Dr. A. Ramadas, joint director of agriculture, Chitradurga district, said that when people in Bellary district who were entirely dependent on the mines for their livelihood lost their jobs, they started migrating to Goa in search of work. Is this what lies ahead for the former mine workers of Hosadurga as well?
They sold their souls, or rather their health
Working in the mines is not an easy task. It involves a lot of hauling and breaking. So it’s no surprise that many of the workers were saddled with health problems.
“I was constantly coughing, and my stomach would also ache. I had complications in my pregnancy as well, which the doctor said was because of all the bending and the lifting that I had to do,” Devamma said.
Devamma and her husband Kariappa
Many trips to the hospital and several large bills later, Devamma now claims to be problem-free. The mining company never footed her bill, and neither did it pay for healthcare costs of hundreds of its other workers.
Devamma’s husband, Kariappa, talks about how workers would go home during their lunch breaks, take their medicines and go right back to work. Missing a day of work because of illness meant losing out on a day’s earnings, which to these villagers meant a lot.
A lot of women would often carry their little ones on their backs while hauling iron ore from one point to another. The children got no respite from the harsh rays of the sun, and were even put to sleep under the shade of sparse shrubs in the area.
“I didn’t like it in the mines, but I had to work there. I needed the money because I had two small children to feed and clothe,” Devamma added.