Here's my article from today's National on coal cycle wallahs, illegal mining and how the Naxalite rebels are involved:
Dinood starts his working day shortly before 4am, packing around 300kg of coal in nylon sacks and tying them to a one-pedal bicycle with no chain.
He then sets off from the outskirts of the Barej mine in India's north-east to the town of Hazaribagh, pushing the bike 30 kilometres on a journey that will take between 12 and 14 hours, after which he hopes to sell his entire load for the equivalent of about Dh11 [$3].
There are thousands more coal-cycle wallahs in the state of Jharkhand. They can be seen along the edges of every major motorway, leaning their weight into the handlebars as a long line of lorries and jeeps billow exhaust fumes and dust into their faces. Some make even longer journeys, taking several days to reach the city of Ranchi, where they can sell their coal at a premium.
Dinood's work is technically illegal because all the coal in India's soil is owned by the state. This leaves him open to frequent harassment by the authorities.
"We have to pay up to 50 rupees (Dh4) in bribes on each journey to police or other officials," he said, already pouring sweat as he contemplated the long hill in front of him.
"But sometimes the police beat us up just to show us their force. They let the air out of our tyres or bend the wheels. Sometimes they just steal the whole load of coal.
Here's a few more pictures I took during my trip to the mining areas of Hazaribagh district and Dhanbad: