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Damaged and caved in, victims of mine collapse still call it home
The ground is slipping from under the houses of nearly 200,000 people. Houses are sinking into cavities, some 15 metres deep, left behind by the abandoned mines of Western Coalfield Limited (wcl). The mines are located under a six-kilometre stretch in Maharashtra's Chandrapur town. As houses caved in and cracks appeared on walls, wcl urged residents, most of them former workers, to move to somewhere safer. But there is nowhere they can go.
Nor does the public sector undertaking have any plans to relocate the people living so dangerously.
On August 15, two houses in the Lalpeth area collapsed into a 15-metre cavity. Nine neighbouring houses developed cracks. Residents said they received a notice to clear out of the area four days before this subsidence.Forty families were evacuated on the night of August 14, hours before the cave-in. They were hastily put up in abandoned staff quarters, most of which had doors, windows and even roofs missing.
The house where Palla Mallesh Kumar took refuge with his ailing wife and disabled son did not have a roof. Kumar retired from wcl as a labourer; his was one of the two houses that caved in on August 15. "Three generations of my family have worked for wcl. The British gave us this land so we could build a house. Now we are being told to clear out without any kind of relocation plan. Where can we go?" he asked.
Residents Down To Earth (dte) spoke to alleged wcl asked them to leave the area. The company paid no heed to their rehabilitation pleas, they said.
When the British began excavating for the mines in the 1920s they resettled the bulk of their labour force from Andhra Pradesh. After the mines were nationalized following Independence, they continued to work in the mines, now taken over by wcl. Today the area has grown into a crowded jumble of slums and low cost housing for the poor.
|Palla Mallesh Kumar and his ailing wife had to move to a roofless shelter after his house caved in while Mallubai continues in her damaged house|
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