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The children who work in India's rat-hole coal mines
SCRIPT: A mine too small and risky for most adults to enter but a daily slog for Surya - one of thousands of children employed in the lucrative coal industry in India's remote northeast. SOUNDBITE 1 Surya Limu (man), child miner (Nepali, 16 sec): "Of course I feel scared but what can I do? I need money, how else can I stay alive? Even if I’m afraid, I have to get up and go to work every day so I can earn money." Each day, before sunrise, Surya makes the steep, slippery descent 50 metres into the earth armed only with two pickaxes and a flashlight, ready to squat through narrow tunnels and cut coal. Rat-hole mining, as it’s commonly known, is practised all over Meghalaya state - home to hundreds of thousands of mines. SOUNDBITE 2 Kumar Subba (man), mining manager (Hindi, 15 sec): "Smaller boys can enter the rat-holes easily, whereas bigger, taller men simply can't go into the holes." Virtually no safety measures are in place, accidents and quiet burials are all too common, when the crudely-built rat-holes cave in on workers, some as young as 13 years old. SOUNDBITE 3: Sanjay Chhetri (man), child miner (Hindi, 10 sec): "There's gas inside and I’m scared of the mine collapsing on top of me and it's difficult to pull the cart loaded with coal." Child labour is illegal in India but remains rampant throughout the state's coal industry, run entirely by private interests, with no government oversight. After decades of unregulated mining, the state is due to enforce its first-ever mining policy. This will ban underage workers but allow rat-hole mining to continue, a move slammed by child rights activists. SOUNDBITE 4 Rosanna Lyngdoh (woman), team leader, Impulse NGO Network (English, 18 sec): "The government should look into the matter again because when they say that rat-hole mining will remain, it means children will always be employed in the mines because the rat-holes are small holes and only small-built people or children can enter the rat-holes." State leaders have pledged to end child labour. But the coal industry continues to attract new recruits like Surya, lured by the prospect of earning a few dollars a day in exchange for a childhood spent deep underground. SHOTLIST: RYMBAI, INDIA, JAN 29 - 31, 2013, SOURCE: AFPTV - Various of Surya Limu (claims he is 17, sounds and looks about 14) inside a coal mine, pulling a cart filled with coal out of the rat-hole, emptying it - SOUNDBITE 1 - Various of Surya Limu leaving for work early in the morning, walking into mine, entering the rat-hole - SOUNBITE 2 - Surya Limu standing and coughing by the coal lift - Various of young miners (age uncertain, but adolescent appearance) entering or exiting the rat-hole - Surya Limu taking coal cart back into the rat-hole - Sanjay Chhetri (says he is 13, sounds and looks about 10) walking near the mines with pickaxe - SOUNDBITE 3 - Various of Sanjay Chhetri breaking coal - Various of child labourers (age uncertain, all look between 11 and 14 years old) at a coal depot - Various of young miners inside mine - Various of Rosanna Lyngdoh speaking to child miners (claiming to be 17) and slightly older miners who began working in the rat-holes in their early-mid teens - SOUNDBITE 4 - Various of Surya Limu leaving the mine, climbing the ladders, walking home, washing his hands and face /// -------------------------------------------------- AFP TEXT STORY: India-mining-children-labour,FEATURE The children who work in India's rat-hole coal mines by Ammu Kannampilly RYMBAI, India, Feb 21, 2013 (AFP) - Thirteen-year-old Sanjay Chhetri has a recurring fear: that one day, the dark, dank mine where he works will cave in and bury him alive. Like thousands of children in India's remote northeast, Chhetri begins work in the middle of the night, ready to dig pits, squat through narrow tunnels and cut coal shards. At four feet six inches, the skinny teenager is the perfect fit for a job in the lucrative mining industry in Meghalaya state whose crudely-built rat-hole mines are too small for most adults to enter. Each day Sanjay makes his way down a series of slippery ladders in the pitch-dark, carrying two pickaxes, with a tiny flashlight strapped to his head. Seven months into the job, he still walks gingerly, taking care not to miss a step and fall fifty metres (165 feet). Once he reaches the bottom, he squats as low as he can and slips into the two-feet-high rat-hole, pulling an empty wagon behind him. That's where his nightmares begin. "It's terrifying to imagine the roof falling on me when I am working," he says. Twelve hours later, he will have earned 200 rupees ($4) for a day's work, more than his parents make as labourers in the state capital Shillong. The eldest boy in a family of ten, Sanjay left school two years ago when his family could no longer pay the bills. "It's very difficult work, I struggle to pull that wagon once I have filled it with coal," he tells AFP. As he shivers in coal-stained jeans and flip-flops -- revealing wrinkled feet that look like they belong to a much older man -- he says his parents constantly ask him to return home to work with them. But he isn't ready to leave the mines yet. "I need to save money so I can return to school. I miss my friends and I still remember school. I still have my old dreams," he says. -- No curbs on child labour -- ------------------------------ Mine manager Kumar Subba says children like Sanjay turn up in droves outside Meghalaya's coal mines, asking for work. "New kids are always showing up here. And they lie about their age, telling you they are 20 years old when you can see from their faces that they are much, much younger," he tells AFP. Baby-faced Surya Limu is among the most recent recruits to join Subba's team in Rymbai village. Limu, who claims he is 17, left his native Nepal for Meghalaya when his father died in a house fire, leaving behind a widow and two children. Unlike his more experienced colleagues, Limu moves slowly down the precarious mine steps, his delicate features straining with the effort. "Of course I feel scared but what can I do? I need money, how else can I stay alive?," he tells AFP. Child labour is officially illegal in India, with several state laws making the employment of anyone under 18 in a hazardous industry a non-bailable offence. Furthermore, India's 1952 Mines Act prohibits coal companies from hiring anyone under 18 to work inside a mine. Meghalaya, however, has traditionally been exempt due to its special status as a northeastern state with a significant tribal population. This means that in certain sectors like mining, customary laws overrule national regulations. Any land owner can dig for coal in the state, and prevailing laws do not require them to put any safety measures in place. According to the Shillong-based non-profit, Impulse NGO Network, some 70,000 children are currently employed in Meghalaya's mines, with several thousand more working at coal depots. "The mine owners find it cheaper to extract coal using these crude, unscientific methods and they find it cheaper to hire children. And the police take bribes to look the other way," Rosanna Lyngdoh, an Impulse activist, told AFP. -- Accidents and burials -- --------------------------- After decades of unregulated mining, the state is due to enforce its first-ever mining policy later this year. The draft legislation instructs mine owners not to employ children, but it does allow rat-hole mining to continue. "As long as they allow rat-hole mining, children will always be employed in these mines, because they are small enough to crawl inside," Lyngdoh said. Accidents and quiet burials are commonplace, with years of uncontrolled drilling making the rat-holes unstable and liable to collapse at any moment. According to Gopal Rai, who lives with seven other miners in an eight by ten feet tarpaulin-covered bamboo and metal shack, compensation is rarely, if ever, paid to injured children. The 17-year-old spends his wages on clothes, mobile phone downloads and a fortnightly schedule of spiky "Korean-influenced" haircuts. "Some days I feel all right, on other days it's a little difficult to breathe," Rai said, a saffron and black scarf wrapped around his neck. He sees no reason to visit a doctor. "What's the point? Anyway, when I leave home for work I have no idea if I will come back alive." END
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It’s him making his pitch, telling what he understands about young, Southern men.” Hood says “The Part of Him” was inspired by the procession of scandals that plague the political world year after year. “It’s about political assholery -- there’s someone new playing that role every few months,” he says. “As soon as we get rid of one of them, someone comes up and starts playing that part again.” Reflecting the renewed high level of collaboration between the band’s two principals, English Oceans marks an unprecedented event: the recording of a Hood song, “Til He’s Dead or Rises,” with Cooley assuming the lead vocal. Cooley says, “I remember Patterson was getting frustrated trying to sing it. He was doing fine, but it seemed like there was something he wanted to do that wasn’t coming. I was in the control room thinking, ‘I could probably sing this’ -- though it wasn’t like I was saying, ‘Oh, I can sing this a lot better than that.’ I was thinking, ‘This sounds like something I could sing.’ Right after that, he walks into the control room and says, ‘You want to trying singing this? It sounds more like you than me.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I was just thinking that.’” “Grand Canyon,” the final song on the album, is an emotionally overwhelming elegy for Craig Lieske, a longtime member of DBT’s touring family. The former manager of Athens’ 40 Watt Club and a key player in the city’s experimental music scene, Lieske died suddenly of a heart attack in January 2013 following the first night of the band’s three-night homecoming stand in Athens. English Oceans is dedicated to him. “I probably wrote it in 15 minutes,” Hood says. “It wasn’t any kind of a conscious thing. It’s the most important song of mine on the record. I wrote new songs to go with it. It recalibrated something. It became a totally different record for me than the record I thought we were going to make.” The album was recorded with a compact, retooled lineup. Jay Gonzalez, who joined the band in 2008 as keyboardist, stepped into an expanded role by adding guitar to his duties, while bassist Matt Patton was drafted from the Tuscaloosa group The Dexateens. The unit was road-tested during dates in 2013. Cooley says, “This lineup is so direct. It can go from this chainsaw rock ‘n’ roll to very delicate, pretty-sounding stuff.” We wrote a lot of those kinds of songs, and this lineup got all of that well. Hood agrees: “We recorded with a stripped-down lineup that gave things a more primal and immediate feel. It’s a more turn-on-a-dime kind of thing, which suits these songs, and us as a band. It’s a very tasteful group, and when it needs to be it can be a very big, powerful, over-the-top band, too, and it can go from one to the other seamlessly.” Looking at the accomplishments of English Oceans from the perspective of DBT’s nearly three-decade history, both Cooley and Hood decline to hedge their bets on the quality of their latest work. “You’re always hesitant to say, ‘Oh, this is the best record we’ve ever made,’” Cooley says, “because you always want to. And sometimes you say it, and sometimes you’re right, and sometimes you think, ‘Well, maybe I jumped the gun on that a little bit, I got excited.’ But I think this just might be the best record we’ve ever made.” Hood concurs enthusiastically: “It’s my favorite thing that we’ve ever done. I’m proud of our catalog – we always try to make as good a record as we can make. Sometimes things just work. This time, we made kind of a magical record. I’ve always felt that Decoration Day was our best record, and this is the first one that I think is a better record than that was. Every piece of the puzzle fit.” Publicity: Traci Thomas / Thirty Tigers / 615.664.1167 / traci@thirtytig
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