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From 'gin' girls to scavengers: women in Indian collieries

CollectionsANU Resources, Environment & Development Group (RE&D)
Title: From 'gin' girls to scavengers: women in Indian collieries
Author(s): Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala
Keywords: coal mining
labour force
Indian collieries
exclusion of women
ethnic division
women labour
resource extraction
gender relations
Publisher: Canberra, ACT: Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program (RMAP), Division of Pacific and Asian History, Research School for Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University
Series/Report no.: Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program (RMAP) Working Paper: No. 28
Coal mining began in India during the colonial period as an enclave to fuel the engines of the Raj. Women of tribal and lower caste communities were an important part of the labour force. Their role in the resource extraction continued to be significant as long as the techniques of production remained basic, labour intensive, small and surface bound. The expansion of coal mining (particularly in the post-colonial period when the industry was nationalised), with consequent increasing reliance on more mechanised production techniques, has led to a rapid decline in the participation of women. This exclusion has been aided and abetted by the State and its various agencies and laws, trade unions and the ILO who have all worked together in defining a place for women in a gendered resource economy. This place is at a lower level, secondary to the needs and struggles of men, in Indian collieries. In my presentation I will describe how the work of resource extraction becomes gendered in the first place, what happens when women find themselves marginalized from the formal mining sector and alienated from access to environmental resources, and how they are rendered illegitimate and invisible in the economy that separates women and men’s spheres of work.


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