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The Chandasi Coal Mandi

Today’s ET carries a story on Chandasi – also spelt as Chandausi. It is a mandi — like the agri markets of India — but one dealing in coal. It is a fascinating place. Its architecture is similar to that of a farm mandi even though the commodities the two trade in are so different. It corrects a state failure — inability to supply coal to small businesses — but does so by sourcing illegal coal. Which makes it a benign institution. But it is also malign. The mandi is mired in local mafias, coal syndicates and what have you. And so, while the illegal enterprises supplying coal to the mandi make pots of money, the labour, the buyers, some of the traders, lead marginal existences.

The story in the paper, here. A longer version of the story, up on my ET blog, Anomalocaris.

where the trucks from jharia stood.

near the trucks from jharia. across the road, behind these trucks, stood trucks from ramgarh.

parmeshwar patil,  commission agent at the mandi. business is down. big traders extend credit. we cannot. a similar narrative as what one hears in farm mandis.

parmeshwar patil, commission agent at the mandi. business is down. big traders extend credit. we cannot. a similar narrative as what one hears in farm mandis.

7 in the morning. trucks coming in for the auction at 'punjab kanta', the point in chandasi where the auction happens

7 in the morning. trucks coming in for the auction clustering around ‘punjab kanta’, the point in chandasi where the selling/buying happens

buddhiram. works 20 days a month at chandasi as labour. the pay is dismal. the 'mate' (labour contractor) deducts a lot even though he does no work.

buddhiram. works 20 days a month at chandasi as labour. it takes about 7 hours to load a 20 tonne truck. the pay is about rs 800 per truck. a sum that needs to be split between all the workers. however, the ‘mate’ (labour contractor) takes about rs 230 out of that 800. the rest is what is left for the workers — say 3 per truck. it was a long chat. we started talking about chandasi. and then, the chat switched to the changes in his life which resulted in him coming to chandasi as labour, the grim state of the school where his children go, and more.

if the small traders were suffering, so were the workers.

life in a coal mandi. walk down chandasi and you see people loading, unloading, sitting around, bathing to get the coal off, trucks lurching down rutted roads…

chandasi's version of the resource curse.

life in india’s largest coal mandi. we treat the informal economy like shit.

the mandi at chandasi. the space between the highway and the village houses 700-800 depots, small yards with coal owned by relatively large traders.

between the highway and the village stand 700-800 depots. small yards owned by relatively large traders — the smaller ones have been all but pushed out as the coal business became a volumes play.

preparing to move coal from one truck to another.

preparing to move coal from one truck to another.

as in farm mandis, the coal mandi also categorises the coal it receives into different categories -- by origin, by quality, by size of the coal pieces, etc. buyers, in that sense, get coal tailored to their needs. this is quite different from the coal india approach where the only customisation is per grade/calorific value.

as in farm mandis, the coal mandi also categorises the coal it receives into different categories — by origin, by quality, by size of the coal pieces, etc. buyers, in that sense, get coal tailored to their needs. this is quite different from the coal india approach where the only customisation is per grade/calorific value.

the obligatory cycle photo

the obligatory cycle photo

another view of chandasi.

another view of chandasi.

also see these, my photos from the field while reporting on coalgate.

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