My first comic
The coal mining industry in India is more than 200 years old. It continues to be a major driving force for internal migration and attracts labourers from Nepal and Bangladesh, particularly the coalmines in the north-eastern state of Meghalaya.
"Hunger drove us from our homes. The coal industry offers so many job opportunities, all you need to do is work hard" says Mehdi, who is from Bangladesh. He asked only to use his first name because he has no work permit. "We just cross the border" he said.
"It is hard labour and often there are accidents, but the money is worth it" says Ram Bahadur from western Nepal. He spends six to eight months a year working in the coal mines of Meghalaya.
Most work as day labourers and earn $100-$200 a month. There is no medical or life insurance for workers.
"We just tie a cotton towel on our heads and tuck in a torch, and sometimes wear a pair of rain boots in the name of safety" says Gokul Bhandari, a migrant from Nepal.
"If there is an accident we are paid $100-120 as compensation. Sometimes nothing" says Khalid Mustafa, a worker from Bangladesh.
Most accidents are not reported and there is no official data about accidents and deaths. ”Accidents are common, major ones are reported. Most are silenced or quietly buried, especially if they are illegal immigrants” says Ram Jajodia, a labour contractor.
"Risk is better than hunger" says Azmal, 18, who is from Bangladesh.
Photos by Bijoyeta Das for Al Jazeera