Swati Simha's blog posts

A Small Mining Town: Visit to Noamundi, Jharkhand.

July 29, 2016

Swati Simha, B!RTH’s playwright based in India, shares some images from a recent research visit to Noamundi – a small mining town in the east of India.

Noamundi is a small village in the state of Jharkhand home to the Ho tribal population and is known as ‘a small mining town’ with a large Tata Steel plant and many smaller mine-owners. Legend has it that the first iron ore explorers saw the local tribal population making use of iron tools and when asked where they had managed to acquire iron ore, the villagers pointed towards a hill and said ‘Noamundi’, which meant ‘the hill’ in the Ho language.

Until 2014 the people of Noamundi have been largely invisible to the census of the country and land rights have become an issue owing to the non-existence of these villages in the eyes of the government.This is seen in the non-existence of government infrastructure in the region. With respect to healthcare, there is one Primary Health Care centre (PHC) which is understaffed and undersupplied.

 

 

Broken down ambulance at the Primary health centre.

Broken down ambulance at the Primary health centre.

Delivery Room at the Primary Health Centre, Noamundi. There is no  facility to carryout a C-section. The nurse mentioned she sleeps in the room at times as there is no staff facility, only to have the doctor tugging at her kamiz to stop talking.

Vaccines kept in the ice-boxes they have been transported in as there is no refrigerator available.

The doctor tells me that officials regularly come to check if vaccines have been administered and the doctor asked me if she should defy them and stop giving vaccinations as they turn more dangerous without proper refrigeration.

Tata on their website mentions ‘corporate governance’ and calls the community in which they operate as ‘corporate citizens’.  Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS) works in partnership with the public sector to implement government schemes. The lack of government infrastructure has increased the dependence of people on corporate governance and is seen in the omnipresent ‘Courtesy Tata Steel’ on water pumps, lamp posts, walls and toilets.

Adivasis (the tribal population) have traditionally been hunter gatherers and have derived their nutrition from the forest but owing to deforestation for timber export, mining activity and the restrictions imposed by the forest department to enter reserve, the tribal have suffered nutritionally. Making malnutrition a primary cause of maternal deaths. British colonialists in their efforts to civilize the tribal population displaced several thousand tribals to work as migrant laborers in Bengal and the North-East. The Indian government too has continued this legacy of capitalizing on migrant labor by providing no irrigation for subsistence and limited access to forest produce, making adivasis the most impoverished and vulnerable labor in the country.

 

above An adivasi girl writing her name with a piece of iron ore found near a small river bed.

Woman serving Hadiya (alcohol made of rice) in a market where forest produce is exchanged.