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It has been a long journey for Benoyendra Kumar Das, who founded the Institute for Miners and Metalworkers Education in Kolkata along with legendary trade union leader Kanti Mehta in 1965. But the concern about safety and protection of miners and metal workers in the country's mines keeps Das going and striving for the better.
"My attitude towards life changed when I visited Geneva, Sweden and Denmark and got to learn about their trade union movements", he says. He realised that trade unions are not only forums but also educational institutes where workers are taught and trained to have a better life. "They imparted training about hygiene, personal safety, collective bargaining not only to the workers but also their families. Their organised approach towards these subjugated sections of the society made me think of ways to have similar schools here in India."
So after Asian Trade Union College shifted to Singapore in 1965, he and Mehta founded the Institute for Miners and Metalworkers Education. It is this organisation with which he is still involved as its director and constantly working to provide a better life to the miners.
The main work of the institute has been to create a charter of demand for the mine workers and then guide trade union leaders in the acts of collective bargaining and help them reach an agreement with the administration.
Das proudly says that it is because of this "successful bargaining" that today welfare of the miners have been taken care of largely. "Today all workers working in the mines are eligible for a 15 per cent allowance. Since January 31, this year there has been a 25 per cent hike in wages of permanent workers in mines. They receive medical benefits and even travel allowance in reserved train compartments."
His institute is the sole organisation in India to get recognised by Directorate General of Mine Safety (DGMS) and allowed to impart safety training to the mine workers.
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