Saturday, 29 October 2011

Ramakrishna Mission in Cherrapunjee- Day 5

Barely 60-70 km from Shillong, the otherwise picturesque hills were pock-marked with sudden, unannounced holes, angry interruptions in the sloping green. There was a huge amount of deforestation and coal mining in the area, so much so that it tempted Sajid to ask Guddu if any outsider can buy land there! But no chance, if anybody thought of settling down in that idyllic end-of-the-world green nest, he/she has to be ready to get disappointed. The state is immune to aliens and the nearest possibility is to marry a Khasi girl and buy some property in her name ;)
Mined coal
Workers load coal on to a lorry

A truck transporting granite stones

People were busy loading coal on to the trucks, while small children were helping the elders to load the baskets. By and large coal mining is privately controlled by small-scale ventures. Being a tribal dominated state the land belongs to individuals/ community/village. Meghalaya is the only state in the country where miners do not need to take a mining lease from the government. So any individual owning coal-bearing land can extract coal and sell it in the market, a blessing in disguise!

Locally, the extraction of coal is known as the Rat Hole Mining, as literally the hole has one metre opening along which the miners crawl and excavate coal. The miners go as deep as 50-100m in length from the opening. The coal is brought out in small wooden barrows and head shifted to the roadside to be loaded on to the trucks.

The ‘Black Gold’ from this region is considered to be of very good quality coking coal owing to its low ash content which is less than 8%. It can be used in a large number of industries requiring non-combustible coal. The sectors where it can be used include power generation, fertiliser industries, smokeless coke, cement, textile, paper, rubber, brick-burning and pottery industries.

“Since mining is a private enterprise, the government has no control over it. The hills here are rich not just in coal, but also in Limestone, Clay and Kaolin or China Clay, Sillimanite, Phospherite, Glass-Sand, Granite, Quartz and Feldspar, Gypsum, Base Metal. Even Uranium, Gold and Iron ore were also found in this region. But the cost of living is very expensive here as everybody is indulged in mining. The price of vegetables is also skyrocketing and even weekly ration can cost a family not less than Rs 1,000!” said Guddu.

When we reached Ramakrishna Mission, small children selling cinnamon approached us. We went up to see the exhibits at the museum with Khasi, Garo and Jaintia artefacts and unfortunately, there was no power. Photography was prohibited inside and we couldn’t click any pics also. All I could do was buy a nice poster of Vivekananda. I then went to see the prayer hall and meditated for a while. Couldn’t spend more time as Sajid, Shahid and Umer were waiting outside :(
Ramakrishna Mission in Sohra

Children selling cinnamon approach Sajid
Umer and Sajid with tribal children selling cinnamon

A tribal boy selling cinnamon
Prayer Hall at Ramakrishna Mission

Ramakrishna Mission at Cherrapunjee
We came out of the building when the children again approached us to buy some cinnamon from them and I bought two packets from them. Guddu told us that the our next stop would be at Nohkalikai Falls.

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