Coal mining at the Someshwari River in Durgapur upazila, Netrakona is the mainstay for thousands of poor people, but local business syndicates are depriving them of the fair price of the coal.
Workers said they extract 7-13.5 tons of coal every day, which the traders collect from them at a very low price; only to sell it in the market at a much higher price.
Kulsuma Begum, native of Durgapur’s Farangpara village, said her three children excavate coal from the riverbed and collectively earn Tk500-800 in total per day.
If the coal traders paid the right wages, their earning could be between Tk1,000 and Tk1,200 per day, she added.
Seeking anonymity, a former upazila parishad member said he had recently started mining coal from the river to survive as his crops had been damaged in the last two seasons.
Many farmers in the upazila have started digging up the coal as they could not harvest the crops they had grown for two consecutive seasons. Many of these coal miners have also been forced to include their children in this tedious and dangerous job.
“At least 7,000 people extract from the river every day, but none of them is getting proper wage because of the businessmen’s syndicates,” the UP member said.
The businesses also do not pay the revenue to the government because of the local administration's negligence, he added.
Farid Ahmed, a local coal trader, denied the allegation of the workers.
“We buy wet coals from the workers which are heavier than the dry ones that we sell. That is why we buy the coals at a relatively cheaper price. There is no other reason behind it,” he said.
Durgapur Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Mamunur Rashid said the authorities concerned would take necessary steps to ensure fair wages for the coal miners.
“If someone is found to be evading tax payment, the administration will definitely take lawful actions against them,” he added.
According to the local administration, coal worth Tk5 crore is being excavated from the Someshwari riverbed each day.