The Coal Cycle
Around the coal mines of Dhanbad, Jharia or Raniganj in Eastern India, you'll often come across these cycles loaded with nearly 150-200 kg of coal, being pushed by these cycle wallahs. The reward for their labour, a meager Rs 100 - 150 (US$ 2-3) per trip.
A stream of these wallahs pushing their loads up a hill reminds one of a line of ants struggling with food seemingly too big to be handle. They provide a fascinating subject of inquiry to the curious person. In most cases, cyclists are friendly and open to chatting, particularly when they stop to catch a breath in an uphill push. However, they are often guarded in their responses when asked where the coal comes from. Locals such as jeep/trekker (a form of open large jeep used commonly for transporting passengers) drivers or even local police may stop to help them if a curious interviewer causes suspicion.
The loads are pushed by the cycle wallahs 15–25 km up, sometimes reasonably steep hills, and the return journey may take as long as eight hours. When pushing the coal up the steep inclines, they may stay in groups of 4–8 in order to help each other. On flat roads, individual wallahs can be observed. For one destination, Ranchi (the capital of Jharkhand), the cycle wallahs undertake a two day journey of ~60 km, the extra time taken being compensated by a higher price for coal. The stamina needed to undertake this long trip means they only do this twice a week, and return by the local trekkers with their cycles on top. Those who take only one day for their trip often do it every day.
With no other means of sustained livelihood, they are a sad but integral part of the illegal coal mining & distribution mafia. For a detailed read on a subject, visit this page.
Camera : Canon EOS 350D Digital
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
Focal Length : 159mm
ISO Speed: 400