43 year old Yousuf Beg was a petty mining contractor for the majority of his professional life. Alongside his inherited family business, he was a recognized social worker in Panna town working on issues of communal harmony as part of Aman Ekta Committee. In 2006, he was approached by Mines, Minerals and People, an alliance of individuals, institutions and communities affected by mining, to conduct a study on the situation of mine labourers in the region.
The findings of this report shocked Beg and forced him to re-evaluate mining and its real human and environmental implications. Nearly 80% of the workers, majority of them adivasi, were suffering from silicosis, the most common occupational lung disease. This led Beg to take up the issue of mineworker rights for safe work conditions and fair wages.
Beg’s substantial insider experience of the mining industry has provided critical understanding of the issues faced by mineworkers and identify ways to mobilize them. He highlighted the dire reality of children taking up the back-breaking work to support ill parents and having to drop out of school, perpetuating the same health problems generation after generation. Realising that only ownership of resources can provide lasting security; Beg has been tirelessly campaigning for adivasi resource rights and labour entitlements through capacity and perspective building of youth. He is attempting to bring effective attention to this widely prevalent social and environmental hazard that has the backing of powerful mining lobbies and political sanction. Beg became a SRUTI fellow in 2013.