The inhabitants of a remote village at the heart of Indias coal industry brave deadly sinkholes and toxic gases simply to survive
In the village of Liloripathra, in a remote corner of Indias eastern Jharkhand state, mother-of-three Sushila Devi grips the hands of two women sitting on either side of her. Coal fires spew clouds of smoke into the already heavy, polluted air.
At about 8pm, a policeman cradling a small body wrapped in black plastic bags emerges through the smoke and the crowds that have gathered around her home. He has come to deliver the body of her 13-year-old daughter Chanda, killed along with two others from the village when a coal mine caved in on top of them. They had been scavenging in a colliery operated by Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), a subsidiary of state-owned Coal India.
Chanda was a very beautiful, but quiet girl. I cant believe God gave such a girl to me, Devi recalls, after identifying the body.
In the mornings after shed woken up, shed comb her hair and put lipstick on and then ask me how she looked before she left for the mine. That was her routine every day.
At dawn the next morning, the village mourns as the victims bodies are loaded into the back of a truck and transported to the banks of the river Damodar, which straddles the border separating the states of Jharkhand and West Bengal. In nearby woodland, a group of men from the village take turns to dig three shallow graves, before bringing the bodies to be buried.
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