The coalbearers of Ranchi


Ranchi. The capital of Jharkhand state,home to rich mineral resources, prominent among them being coal, the black diamond. Is it any surprise that the black stone plays such an important part in the economy and the life of the state?

And that brings us to the coalbearers of Jharkhand. You see them since dawn, hauling coal from the outskirts of Ranchi to the city. Huge bags of coal perched expertly on both side of their bicycles, they labour intensely, sweat gleaming on their bodies.


On the way to Hazaribagh, two weeks back, on the hilly road leading through the Ghats, I spotted a couple of them . Seeing my camera, they asked me to take pictures. Probably very few people take snaps of them, so they were naturally thrilled when I complied gladly.

You can see them toiling, teeth clenched determinedly, exerting themselves. I know that much of the coal that they carry come from illegal quarries, but is that really relevant in a landscape which is as beautiful as it is rough, as green as it is harsh, in the sense that one has to struggle hard against the odds to make a living? While our babus talk of social justice and rural empowerment, here are some of the stoic men who don’t give a hang about all this discourse, and simply labour on grittily.


To quote James Russell Lowell,

“No man is born into the world whose work
Is not born with him;
There is always work,
And tools to work withal,
For those who will;
And blessed are the calloused hands of toil.”

Calloused hands of toil indeed! In the grit and perseverance of these men, toiling for scores of miles and even ascending the hills, negotiating the potholed roads of Ranchi, on  bicycles loaded with quintals of black stone, the term “ survival of the fittest” finds a new meaning.

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