Labourer buried alive at an illegal stone mine in Assam

On 10 December 2010, Shankar Das, a 33-year-old day-labourer died while working at a stone quarry at Boleshwar Bit of Kalain Forest Range of Karimganj Forest Division in the North East Indian sate of Assam. He died reportedly due to the fall of a chunk of earth on him from the ground above while he was working at a mine. He was pulling out stones from about 15 feet deep mine with other labourers. It is learnt that he miner was allowed to mine stones only at one and a half feet depth. He was cremated soon after his death. No compensations have been provided to his family. No investigation instituted to find out any negligence on the part of his employers and to fix criminal culpability, if any. The matter is hushed up completely.

Shankar Das from village Mahadebpur part IV of Khelma Gaon Panchayat, under Katigorah Police Station in the district Cachar of Assam, was the only earning member of his family. His family was comprised of 60-year-old father Churamani Das, his wife Somarani Das and their sons Jiten Das aged 5, Lob Das and Kush Das aged 2 years, the twins.

According to Somarani Das, the widow of the deceased, her husband used to get up very early in the morning at 3;30 am everyday, and before 6 am he would start for the work place on foot, which is almost 15 kilometers from their house. He would return home after 8 pm. She stated that he worked hard and earned approximately Rs 200/- daily. She added that on 10 December, 2010 Shankar started for work place at 6 am.

Co-workers and neighbours of the deceased Gopal Chandra Das, Jawharlal Das and others, the chunk of earth bruised the left side of Shankar’s head, blood gushed out through his nose and some white thick liquid came out through his ears. His forehead was also badly injured. He was rushed to the nearby Community Health Centre where he was declared death. The persons accompanied Shankar to the CHC were Pradip Das, Bidhu Das and Pranab Das. When contacted, the officer-in-charge of the CHC Mr. Taffazzul Hussain Choudhury stated that he did not keep any record of the death as he was asked not to do so by influential persons.

According to his co-workers, the deceased was hired by, and worked under, Mr. Subodh Ghosh, an influential local stone mafia.

Somarani Das stated that she was informed of the incident at around 10 am and had been told that her husband was injured badly. She was awestruck and did not know what to do. She further stated at 10 pm the dead body was brought home and cremated in no time as per the religious rites. According to her, many unknown persons were insisting for funeral at the earliest.

62-year-old father of the deceased Churamani Das told the same things. He added that he was not in a position to take decision against the mob gathered and he had no knowledge about post mortem or such legal procedures. He even could not mark who were insisting on a hurried funeral. When asked he told that no administrative authorities or forest officers visited their house.

Mr. Himangshu Acharjee, the Officer-in-Charge of Gumrah Police Investigation Centre under Kalain Police Station, said that no complaint filed at the PIC relating to the incident, so he can do nothing about it. However, the information about the incident was given to him by a local journalist working with Dainik Prantojyoti, a local daily over the phone at at 3:30pm on 10 December. Most of the local newspapers also carried the story next day.

It is apparent that soon after the incident the local stone mafia got alert and did every thing to hush up the case. The nexus among stone mafia, forest officials and local police worked it perfectly.

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