It is not an overstatement to say that labourers working in the mining industry earn for their dear ones while working in their possible graves. With the triumph of capitalism all over the world, people’s lives are becoming cheaper with every passing day. The persistent victims in the race of profit-making are no one else but the labourers. In a tragic accident in Kohat, a southern district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), at least eight mineworkers died while working in a coal mine. The nature of the accident is disputed. Investigations will confirm whether it was an explosion in the tunnel or the poisonous gas that has resulted in the tragedy.

READ MORE: Going not-so green

However, one thing that has remained constant all these times is the frequent accidents in Pakistani coalmines that take miners life. What is depressing is that despite continuous disasters the government is yet to formulate a policy that can compel mine owners to take full precautionary measures regarding the safety of the labour force during work hours.

Even in present times when technology has made life simple on an unimaginable scale, the critical working and living conditions of workers are a slap on the face of the government. In Pakistan, neither the government nor the owners of coal mines take the responsibility of making working conditions better and safe. As a result, the workers are increasingly vulnerable to meet fatal accidents while working.

Every protest that Mines Labour Federation (MLF) organises after every fatal accident falls on deaf ears. The plight of these workers does not shake anyone in the government echelon. It is about time for the government to come up with a comprehensive strategy and devise an elaborate policy that can ensure better working and living conditions for those who work in mines. MLF can surely offer valuable suggestions for strong safety measures.

Merely increasing the minimum wage or creating jobs will not exonerate the state from its most important responsibility, i.e., protecting every citizen’s life. So far the labour force in the mining industry has not seen the state’s commitment to take care of their lives. Hardly any political or governance discourse pays heed to the quality of job in the mining sector and safety protections for workers.

According to Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation, between 100 and 200 labourers die every year in coal mine accidents. There are on-the-job risks of mining that include accidents like cave-ins, floods, gas explosions, chemical leakage to name a few. Health risks also increase manifold because of the dust, vaporised molten metal and mercury they inhale. State intervention is direly needed to protect the miners.