Poor families forced to extract gold from drainage in Coimbatore

     About 500 poverty-stricken families in Coimbatore are engaged in eking out their living by extracting gold from the silt and sand of the urban drainage system. They have been in this profession for the past two decades. People bring the drainage sand from various parts of the city and particularly from the areas where jewellers reside and work. They then dry the sand and drop it into a wooden box. The dried sand is then cleaned with water several times and at last the sediments of metal are extracted by smelting process. A few chemicals are then mixed and smelting of metal is done to extract gold. Only a few milligrams or at the most half a gram of gold is extracted after the entire process every day. Members of the entire family including women and children are engaged in this and collectively, they earn around rupees 200 per day. "We do not know anything else apart from this work. We have been doing this work since ages. We all have to work hard and the work is very shabby in nature. We do this to extract on an average about 50 milligram and sometimes one gram of gold also," said Saravanan, a drainage mud worker. People engaged in the process say that extracting gold every time is not a certain thing. Often the entire process goes waste, as there is no gold in the drainage mud. Some of the workers also are affected by infection in their fingers and legs while performing this awful process of prospecting gold from silt. "When I was studying in ninth standard my parents asked me to come here and work with this drainage sand to extract gold. We work here for ten hours everyday and earn 200 rupees. Generally on an average we are able to clean four boxes everyday," said Kavita.

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