Artisanal & Small Mining Communities of Kalahandi
Odisha’s (Orissa) Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput districts (known as KBK region), are the poorest districts in India. Odisha state rank is 22nd out of 29 states in India in the Human development index. The region is known for endemic poverty, youth unemployment and serious challenges in infrastructure and social service provision. These poorest districts are a treasure trove of gemstones like Rhodolite and almandine garnet, aquamarine, heliodor, amethyst, cats-eye, topaz and quartz, chrysoberyl, zircon, moon stone, agate stone, tourmaline, diamond, ruby, emerald etc. Notably, Odisha is known as mini-Brazil, for being a glittering land of gem stones. It has assumed international prominence for its wide array of colored stones and diamonds.
KBK region has been supplying hundreds of crores worth of emeralds, rubies, garnets, cat’s eyes and a small quantity of diamonds to gem cutting and export centres in Jaipur and Bombay. (Orissa Post, Dec 13, 2016). The organised pipeline transports up to Rs 248 crore worth of stones a year from Kalahandi alone, or about half of what Jaipur traders use for cutting, polishing and export. The remainder of the raw stones is imported for re-export as cut and polished stones as reported by India Today. A total 784010 ASM workers out of which 643062 men and 140948 women workers and 9092 employers are engaged in the sector in Odisha (Census data of Odisha)
The artisanal miners mostly the Kondh tribe and the local peasants of the region traditionally work in small groups of family members. ASM constitutes an important livelihood and business opportunity for them. Covid-19 has had catastrophic effects on the people of these districts who mine the gemstones essential to jewelry industry supply chains. The Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) communities have faced both increased health risk and greater prevention challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic.