Sunday, February 21, 2010

Stones and Stony People

The week had some memorable moments: the arrival of a friend, Christine, a cousin of Regina Lyschik, and visit to some of the stone quarries in the farthest corners on the border of West Bengal and Jharkhand in Birbhum district of West Bengal, India. The area has hundreds of stone quarries stretching into two districts in Jharkhand and one district in West Bengal. The stone quarries are like huge open wells, running into 100 - 500 feet deep, where the black granite stones are blasted and then carried up by trucks that can go into these huge wells, and they are brought up to for breaking by hammer wielding men, and women and children carrying them into machines that break the boulders into small pieces. The visit to the places included two of my U.S. friends, students from Seattle University, Jeff and Loren joining me in the adventure. Although I have visited these places, some of the problems these people are into, came to light very strongly: a) There is obviously huge lack of access to health services, and the people certainly suffer from silicosis and tuberculosis; (b) The drop-out among children from schools to work in the quarries or to take care of the siblings so that the parents can go to work, is not as significant as one might think of. (c) The female workers are all young tribal girls; insiders say that older tribal women are not taken as they are not "sexually" attractive, and the young girls serve the sexual needs of men who control the quarries, and the thousands of truck drivers who come there, raising issues of sexual exploitation.

Someone must speak up. We shall speak up. Soon....with your help.

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