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Countryreport: India

1. India with a population of around 1.2 billion people is the second most populated in the world and is a union of twenty eight states and seven union territories. For about two centuries it was under the colonial rule of British imperialism until it won independence in 1947 and became a republic in 1950. Independence also partitioned the country first creating Pakistan and subsequently, in 1971, creating Bangladesh
2. India is a country rich with mineral resources such as coal, iron ore, uranium, copper, zinc, mica, bauxite, limestone, manganese and hydro-carbons including oil and natural gas. It has 42 types of important minerals. It ranks fifth in regard to coal reserves worldwide.
3. Mining activity in the country began during the colonial period in the latter part of the eighteenth century when in the eastern parts of the country coal began to be mined in Raniganj in West Bengal state and with the introduction of the railway system coal mining got impetus and soon several mines began to come up in the east-central region, normally called the mineral heartland.
4. In the entire industrial production, mining contributes about 10% and employs about two million people. It contributes between 2.2% and 2.5% of the country's GDP. The coal industry, that was under the control of private players prior to 1971, was nationalised in 1971-73 and thus it is the state sector that manages the various mines in the country under subsidiaries of the central government owned Coal India Limited (CIL). Mining began at what is today the the Singareni Collieries Limited in the 1880s. Located in the southern region of the country it came to be owned by the provincial government in 1945 and has remained under state ownership ever since.
5. There are in all about 436 mines under the CIL of which 273 are underground and 163 are open cast, while in the Singareni Collieries there are about 28 underground mines and 16 open cast. Today less than 10% of the coal comes from underground mines. Over the years production has increased significantly and the demand for coal has also increased. In 1991 production stood at 225mts, it rose to 600mts in 2016 of which Singareni produced 60mts. Lignite contributes another 25mts to the annual production.
6. By 2020 government estimates that India's coal production will go up to 1.5 billion tonnes of which 1.1 billion tonnes will be produced in the public sector.
7. In the last twenty years under the policies of liberalisation and privatisation, there has been a steady decrease in the number of regular workers on the one hand and an increase in the number of non-regular workers like contract workers including those in outsourced mines. In the eighties there were over 600,000 regular workers in the coal mines in the country and today this number has come down to around 300,000. In the Singareni Collieries in the beginning of the 1990s there were 116,000 regular workers with a very small number of contract workers. Today the number of regular workers has come down to 56,000 thousand while the number of those employed as contract workers stands at 25,000. Both the reduction of regular jobs and the total reduction in employment implies a 600% increase in output per worker along with all the implications this means both on work intensity and health and safety of workers.
8. Unnecessary mechanisation based on enormously expensive machines from imperialist countries is continuing. An example is in Singareni where a German machine was not only introduced, but despite heated debate in the State Assembly among the legislators on alleged corruption in its procurements, the fund outlay was increased from Rs. 5 billion to Rs. 12 billion.
9. At the same time coupled with the above, this sector which has been under the state ownership, has been opened up to private players for captive mining for their own use through a controversial legislation of the national parliament. Some 200 blocks have been given to private sector. In the allotment of these captive mines' India's state apparatus looted the country resulting in one of the high profile corruption scandals involving functionaries of the previous government up to the highest level. The new government pretending a clean­up, has gone in for auction, to the private sector instead of allocation. The new law allows these private mine operators to sell coal in the open market which was hitherto the prerogative of the public sector. Over the years, custom duties on imported coal have also been drastically slashed freeing up the import of coal. Currently 25% of India's coal needs are met through imported coal. Many of India's large steel manufacturers and energy companies, including in the private sector, have acquired mining coal interests abroad especially in Africa and elsewhere in Asia.
10. Most other non-coal minerals, except uranium, have remained open to the private sector. In recent years several multinational mining companies including Anglo-American, BHPBilliton and Rio-Tinto have started operations in India.
11. The coal mine workers in the country have a long tradition of struggle on issues confronting them and on other general issues at large. There have been several long drawn strikes on the issues of wage revision like in 1995. In Singareni Collieries the workers struck work for seventeen days against privatization and against unnecessary mechanisation. In 2015 there was a five day all India coal strike against privatization and disinvestment.
12. In the Indian economy only a marginal percentage of the workforce is engaged in the organized sector. Around 92% of the workforce is in the unorganized sector. The burning question in the general workers as well as in mining workers is the issue of contractualization and outsourcing, with their dismal wages, absence of rights and role in disrupting workers' struggles due to the immediate threat of job loss of contractual workers. In particular there is an increasing and fierce attack on the right to freedom of association.
13. Alongwith, safety standards have been given a go bye, which is of special importance to the mining workers among others. Privatisation and outsourcing are linked intimately with deteriorating safety standards in mines. A case in point is the ghastly accident, killing 28 workers, in an open cast mine given to private contractors by the CIL subsidiary, Eastern Coalfields Ltd, in Lalmatia Mines in Jharkhand on 29th December 2016.
14. In the case of coal, lignite and uranium, the major part of the industry is in the public sector. Even in this the wage difference between the contract and permanent workers is up to as much as three times. The mining of other minerals is through private players where the conditions of work can be well imagined. Most critically the vast majority of mining workers in the private sector do not enjoy trade union rights. Much of the mining industry that is in the private sector, especially stone mining, remains largely unregulated and ungoverned by government.
15. Historically, in India the trade unions arose linked to the various political parties. The process began in the course of the anti-colonial struggle with the first centre set up in 1924 and others evolving subsequently. There are thus distinct trade union centres which could be broadly divided into reactionary, reformist and a third category of militant and revolutionary trade unions. In recent years there is also the emergence of a progressive tradition of the trade union that is autonomous of any one political party. Against the assaults of the rulers on the workers' rights or on issues of policy affecting the working class or against pro imperialist policies, due to the pressure of the workers' struggles, coordinated all India calls for strike are occasionally issued by at least a majority of the various national trade union centres. For instance, this was the case in struggles against the Dunkel Draft which led to institution of the WTO, against privatisation and liberalisation including disinvestment of public sector and more recently against the attacks on the labour laws of the country.