In the nondescript Kuchibera village in West Singhbhum's Saranda forest, 26-year-old Mosa Purty lies on his deathbed while his helpless family looks on. He suffers from severe respiratory disorders and a lung infection that killed his brother a few months ago, and continues to affect other villagers in the mining district.
Once a pristine green forest, Saranda is now an iron ore mining hub where, in the past decade, at least 40 mining companies have been granted leases to mine, of which 21 are active today.
These, besides several illegal mining and crusher companies operating in the area, have generated employment for locals, but also caused widespread destruction to human lives, flora and the wildlife.
The red ash that flies from crusher units and vehicles transporting ore has turned everything red, from the leaves on trees to people's skin. Pollution levels have risen in the forest's two perennial rivers, Karo and Koena, and forest officials claim mining has impacted the movement of animals, particularly wild elephants.
Recent research conducted by three Delhi-based NGOs also indicates that working in mines drastically reduces the life expectancy of labourers to 45 or 55 years.
The ministry of forest and environment had recently given forest clearances to several companies including SAIL for its Chiria mines-Chiria has Asia's biggest iron ore deposits of two billion tones-with specific conditions governing forest clearances, but not all of them are followed.
While some activists and organisations want a complete ban on mining activity in the forest, others such as the All India Adivasi Mahasabha want mining rights to be granted to local tribal co-operatives, and the opposition in Jharkhand recently demanded a ban on the export of iron ore fines (crushed dust).
The state cabinet, however, allowed companies with captive mines to sell off surplus iron ore fines on the grounds that it would get wasted and drained into rivers.