The inhabitants of a remote village at the heart of India’s coal industry brave deadly sinkholes and toxic gases simply to survive

In the village of Liloripathra, in a remote corner of India’s eastern Jharkhand state, mother-of-three Sushila Devi grips the hands of two women sitting on either side of her. Coal fires spew clouds of smoke into the already heavy, polluted air.

At about 8pm, a policeman cradling a small body wrapped in black plastic bags emerges through the smoke and the crowds that have gathered around her home. He has come to deliver the body of her 13-year-old daughter Chanda, killed along with two others from the village when a coal mine caved in on top of them. They had been scavenging in a colliery operated by Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), a subsidiary of state-owned Coal India.

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