Panna: The dark underbelly of India’s diamond hub – by Manish Chandra Mishra (Mongabay India – February 5, 2021)

On a sunny winter afternoon in January, Kusum Bai (name changed), a 40-year-old diamond mine labourer from Kalyanpur village of the Panna district of Madhya Pradesh, had just returned from the mine very early.

Despite losing the day’s wage, she was still praising her luck sitting on a cot in her small house made of mud and stones. The day could have ended up in jail had the forest officers caught her.

Kusum faces this situation once or twice every week as she works in an illegal diamond mine.

There are many labourers like her in the Panna region who are forced to do illegal jobs and lose wages in case of a raid by the forest department. An illegal mine means the mine owner did not take permission from the administration for the mining work and several of these mines often fall within Panna Tiger Reserve or the forest area.

“A year ago, I used to work in a legal mine, but now it is difficult to find diamonds in old mines. My mine owner stopped the mine after he incurred a lot of losses. After losing my job, I had to work in an illegal mine just to survive,” she told Mongabay-India.

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