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Beautiful photo essay.
February 17, 2011 7:46 AM   Subscribe

AP photographer Kevin Frayer moved to New Delhi in 2009. Here he captures a community of coal scavengers who live and collect coal illegally for a few dollars a day in the village of Bokapahari, India
posted by maiamaia (13 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

posted by odinsdream at 7:55 AM on February 17, 2011

Backstory please? I can go on the web and see thousands of pictures of poor people forced to work in desperate conditions for peanuts. I want to know why this is happening. The pictures are worthless without it.
posted by Xurando at 8:07 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Absolutely haunting. This one in particular - the casual intimacy of the boys against the resignation in their eyes. I remember scenes a bit like this, though not quite as apocalyptic in setting. You'd be driving on the Grand Trunk Road out of Delhi and go past a labour crew, and there'd be kids standing around at the edge of the work site, the children of the crew. That look, youthful and hardened at the same time.

Went digging for a bit more context on the region. Here's the AP story that went with the pics.

Should mention as well that this region is nowhere near Delhi - it's a region northwest of Calcutta, in a stretch of India running down through Orissa and Bihar that is the poorest part of the country. The road crews you'd see on the Grand Trunk Road were largely migrants from this part of India.

Should mention finally that whatever the relative merits and kilowatt-hour prices of energy sources, there's no scene like this at the base of a wind turbine. And the world's No. 3 turbine maker is an Indian company. Coal is the enemy of humanity.
posted by gompa at 8:08 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yep, can't ever complain about my job. But I wouldn't call that collection of photos "Beautiful".
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 8:20 AM on February 17, 2011

I wouldn't call that collection of photos "Beautiful".

They are artfully composed, captivating, insightful, and they find the yearning humanity in what would appear to be one of the most hopeless places on earth. That adds up to beauty in my book. Not everything that is beautiful is also pretty.
posted by gompa at 8:23 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I'm sure exposure is exactly what these people who are forced to make a living illegally need.
posted by wayland at 8:35 AM on February 17, 2011

I guess the coal is stolen because the laborers are getting the full profit of their labor.
posted by clarknova at 8:39 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's some of the context from gompa's link:

Earning that living is dangerous, filthy and illegal. Scavengers are buried in landslides, fall from cliffs and endure beatings by miners. They inhale endless coal dust. They age with frightening speed.
But it also brings them $2-$4 for a few hours of work, more than the $1 or so they would earn as day laborers. The work has sustained generations of families, and induced migrants from poorer parts of the country to move here. The money is enough, villagers say, to pay off powerful people who make sure the mines' guards don't interfere.
So there are scavengers putting their children through school, buying televisions and saving up for motorcycles. One young woman says she's scavenging to pay for college.
It's a world that no one leaves easily. Offers of free government apartments seldom lure villagers away until the fires press right against their homes, and an official is waiting with a moving truck and an envelope holding a 10,000-rupee ($215) resettlement bonus.

posted by storybored at 8:47 AM on February 17, 2011

Yeah, I'm sure exposure is exactly what these people who are forced to make a living illegally need.

I'm not sure why you think international attention would hurt. Local authorities already know about this industry. This photoset isn't going to raise that awareness, but it could lead to international involvement to improve conditions or work to eradicate the reason for it.
posted by odinsdream at 8:47 AM on February 17, 2011

Whoever's writing the captions could have been a bit more creative

"Coal scavenger carries basket of coal next to underground coal fire"
posted by bhamrick at 9:00 AM on February 17, 2011

posted by Philosopher's Beard at 9:06 AM on February 17, 2011

Orwell talks about this happening in Britain in The Road to Wigan Pier. The underclass literally risking life and limb to climb over broken slag heaps to pick out coal to burn or sell.
posted by absalom at 9:38 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I wonder what the chances are that some wealthy industrialite in Mumbai is finding out about this and sending in private security to protect his coal pit.
posted by crapmatic at 9:53 AM on February 17, 2011

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