Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd (KPCL), which has assumed full control over the erstwhile Karnataka Emta coal mine after reallocation of coal blocks, is trying to sack over 400 workers of the mine. The company has closed operations at the mine, served notices to the workers and even cut power and water supply to the residential colony to drive away the workers.
Worker’s union Rashtriya Koyla Kamagar Sangharsh Manch (RKKSM) has filed a plea with the assistant labour commissioner against the company, and warned of a strong agitation if the company did not reinstate the workers. “KPCL is so keen on disposing off the old workers that it has abandoned safety of mine and the coal stock there. Around two lakh metric tonne (worth over Rs 60 crore) of coal stock has been gutted in summer fires during the last one-and-a-half month. But the company has not taken any heed of the loss. Coal seam in Baranj-II coal block too has caught fire and national property is being destroyed thanks to the apathy of the company,” charged president of the union Pramod Mohod.
KPCL is a public sector company of Karnataka government and it was allocated six coal blocks for captive mining in Bhadrawati eight years back. The company, however, tied up with EMTA company and floated a joint venture, Karnataka Emta Coal Mine Ltd (KECML), for operation of the mines. KECML took up the operation and maintenance of the mine and recruited project affected farmers, locals and some other workers from its Bengal unit into the mine.
However, following the coalgate exposure, the Supreme Court deallocated all coal blocks in the country, including six blocks awarded to KPCL, which led to the closure of the mine. Even as these coal blocks were reallocated to KPCL again from April 1, 2015, the earlier deallocation of coal blocks had negated the agreement between KPCL with Emta, which led to dissolution of the joint venture KECML. This rendered jobless 158 project affected workers, 51 local workers and 208 employees of Emta (West Bengal), who were all working in the Bhadrawati mine.
Mohod alleged that now KPCL is not willing to continue with the old workers and is trying to drive them away. The workers have not been paid salary since April, their school bus and employee bus services have been terminated, and they are being treated as outsiders. “Hard pressed to sack the workers, the company has even disconnected power supply to the Gulmohur residential colony four days back. A total of 80 families and 120 bachelor workers in the colony are living in the 46 degree Celsius summer heat without power and water supply,” Mohod charged.
He said that the company cannot abandon the 417 workers working in the mine since seven years. “The union will fight tooth and nail for the rights of miners. We have urged guardian minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and other people’s representatives to resolve the problem. If they fail to find a solution, the union will resort to ‘begging’ agitation before the residence of people’s representatives,” Mohod warned.