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Srikanth Kolari–Rat holes of Meghalaya

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It is not widely known that about 70,000 children work as miners in the highly dangerous and suffocating coal mines of Meghalaya which line the Jaintia Hills of Northeast India. The child miners descend into the mines using un-sturdy makeshift ladders made only from branches. Once descended they scramble sideways into “rat-hole” shafts - so small that even kneeling is impossible. Lying horizontally on the ground they hack their way through with picks and bare hands. Their faces become blackened by coal as do their lungs. Grinding away for hours, dragging a small cart half the size of a coffin, they crouch back to the mouth of the mines where a clerk awaits giving credit for their work. For every cart of coal filled, they receive 800 Rupees (about $18 USD). It takes a number of children working as a team to fill the carts so the money is divided among many. On a good day, the child miners can earn up to 200-300 Rupees per day (about $6 USD).

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