India’s largest coal mining project has cast a pall of uncertainty over villages in Bengal

Shubho Ghosh was laying bricks at a construction site, humming to himself. But the very mention of “the coal project” triggered palpable anxiety in the 26-year-old. As he later revealed, his family is worried, very worried. A resident of Makdamnagar in Birbhum district of West Bengal, that sits on a corner of what is said to be India’s largest coal mine project, Ghosh fears a double blow is waiting to hit the family in the coming months when the work for the coal mine picks up pace.

Makdamnagar, where they live in Ghosh Para locality, falls within the area of the Deocha-Pachami coal block. Saldanga, about 10 km from their home – where Shubho’s father, Debashis, operates a drill machine at a stone quarry and his elder brother, Subal, operates a “pokland” (excavator) machine at another quarry – also falls within the proposed coal mine.

“Our family is on the verge of losing both, our jobs and our home,” Shubho told Mongabay-India. “My father has developed anxiety.” He operates an excavator machine in a stone quarry in winter and summer and works as a mason in the monsoon season when quarries function with limited capacities due to waterlogging in the pits.

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