Undaunted by the fear of death, 57-year-old Asif Khan has kept his nose to the grindstone to dig out coal so that the country’s power plants can keep running at a time when people are forced to stay inside as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
With the country faced with an unprecedented situation, Khan, who works in the Kamptee open cast mine of Coal India arm WCL, stated it was time to serve the nation “the way a soldier fearlessly keeps his life at stake to guard his country against the enemies.”
Khan believes the COVID-19 crisis as a “once in a Lifetime” opportunity to serve the country by going to work amid all the risks.
“If my colleagues and I refused to go to work, who would produce coal,” he inquired.
There are many more mineworkers like Khan who have braved the risks associated with the pandemic to fulfil their professional duties.
Shiv Kumar Yadav is another employee who has been at the frontline since the beginning of the crisis, producing coal so that Coal India Ltd (CIL) can meet its output target and keep power generators well-supplied during summers when the fuel demand shoots up drastically. Yadav was haunted by the fear of COVID-19 when the nationwide lockdown began.
“My son said ‘papa, please don’t go. God forbid if You get infected, so could we’,” Yadav reminisces.
However, Yadav says he did not succumb to the pressure of his family, adding that a sense of duty and obligation to serve the country makes him and his colleagues report to work amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Another coal miner Ranjeet Singh said, “All of us are putting our best so that Coal India does not die.”
Gopal Singh owes a lot to the Coal India management, especially his immediate manager Diwakar Gokhale, who is Area General Manager (Nagpur Area) of Western Coalfields Ltd (WCL), for his braveness.
The company undertakes various initiatives to motivate the workers.
Recently, under the leadership of Gokhale, the workers were given floral tributes and commended heartily when they came out of the mine after completing their shift.
A special team of four-five members was flown from Nagpur to the mines, some 40 km away, for the initiative.
All Social distancing practices were followed, Gokhale said, adding that miners need to be motivated in these challenging times.
The company has also taken several measures to ensure the security of its employees.
Aside from providing masks, foot-operated wash basins have been installed at vulnerable places in all the mines of the Nagpur region, with the city reporting many coronavirus cases.
Sanitation of heavy earth moving machines takes place in all the three working shifts daily, he added.