Since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in March last year, the officials, staffers and miners of Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Limited (BCMCL) have been virtually leading a confined life inside company premises to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible contagious viral infection in the mining complex.
The mine is situated in Parbatipur upazila of Dinajpur, a subsidiary of the state-owned Petrobangla.
According to the company's high officials, around 1,000 employees, including officials and staffers of BCMCL, Chinese and Bangladeshi miners of the contracted company CMC-XMC, have been staying at the mine compound since the authority restricted movement on March 24 last year.
Most of the officials are staying with their family members at the residential quarters inside. There is a separate residential quarter for the Chinese miners as well. But, the 450 local miners have been leading an isolated life without their family members, just like prisoners.
The situation is similar for the officials under the outsourcing company.
The miners talked with The Daily Star wishing not to be named.
The miners alleged that CMC-XMC, the contracted company of BCMCL, does not allow the local miners to go home although they are from surrounded villages of the coal mine.
Every day, family members gather at the mine gate to see their near and dear ones, if the Chinese contracted company allow the miners to meet, far away from the padlocked entrance.
Anjuara, a miner's wife, said she came to the mine gate with her two minor children to see her husband at around 10.00am. After waiting for two hours, she was finally able to see him. The miner said he has been staying inside with other miners for the last seven months. He works around 10 hours under the ground every day. The miners cook meal for them individually.
There are no sufficient number of fans for cooling during the scorching heat.
Anjuara said she comes to the coalmine gate once a month to take the money from her husband to manage family expenses.
"I brought some cooked meal for him", she said, sobbing. Before the onset of the viral pandemic, he used to commute to the coalmine from home every day, but he has been staying there since the detection Covid-19 cases in the country last year.
"It is hard to manage a family without a male person", said Anjura adding that she has been doing everything being a woman to manage her family.
Rafiza Begum, another miner's wife, said the isolation of the miners inside the coalmine compound for months after months is nothing but torture and violation of human rights. She claimed that GTC, the contracted company of Maddhapara granite mining company, allows the local miners to go home after their everyday work. "Why are they so harsh?" she questioned.
She also brought some cooked food with her. Rafiza alleged that her husband needs to cook a meal every day.
During the visit, this correspondent found that family members of 20 miners gathered in front of the coalmine's gate to meet with their near and dear ones.
A miner seeking anonymity alleged that the officials and Chinese miners often go out of the coalmine compound every day if they needed. But, none of the local miners is allowed to go outside the compound.
"They are so hard on us", he said.
As there is no scope for the miners to go outside the coalmine, they buy their essentials from the mine gate, which is much expensive.
"We want a solution to the problem", said a miner.
Despite maintaining such tough lockdown, the authority could not be able to stay away from coronavirus infection. Recently, a Chinese miner tested positive.
Besides, there are at least 30 officials and staffers inside the coalmine suffering from fever. So, the coalmine authority has decided to conduct a test for them to be sure whether they test covid-19 positive or not.
The Daily star tried to reach Md Kamruzzman Khan, the managing director, for his comment, however, he did not receive the phone call.