Over 60,000 Singareni Collieries Company Limited employees, who can change the fortunes of candidates in the elections to a dozen Assembly constituencies in four Telangana districts, want the political parties to not treat them as mere vote bank, but genuinely strive for the welfare of the premier company.

“Political parties see us as a vote bank, but we want them to strive for the welfare of the company and we will vote only for those who can work for the company’s growth,” says a coal miner K. Satish, summing up the mood among the workers.

The workers are hopeful that their future will be better once the Telangana State comes into being from June 2. The SCCL employees in mines spread in Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam districts have several demands that they expect the leaders to fulfil. Expansion of mines, opening new underground mines, generation of additional employment to local youth, revival of dependent employment, income tax exemption to miners, and other issues concerning their welfare tops the agenda.

Coal miners in Godavarikhani region, talking to The Hindu, said they were hoping that the new government in Telangana would address their problems.

They clearly indicated that they would give a chance to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).

However, they are keen on taking a collective decision and have decided to place their charter of demands before the parties.

Listing out the problems plaguing the company, the workers said that a drastic drop in the employee strength from 1.16 lakh two decades ago to 63,000 now, has made the work difficult and the problem would intensify once around 20,000 employees retire in 2016.

“There is no recruitment in the company from a decade or so,” said Linga Murthy, operator working with GDK 5 incline underground mine in Godavarikhani. “At present, there are no young employees. It’s time for the government to recruit people to increase coal production,” he added. “Our children are unemployed and we want the dependent employment scheme to be revived,” said another coal miner Bhoomaiah.

Telangana region has already been facing acute power shortage and the situation would worsen in near future. In this backdrop, the SCCL assumes importance as power plants are dependent on the company’s coal supply for power generation.

An SCCL official told The Hindu that in the new State, coal production should rise from the existing 53 million tonnes per annum to around 100 million tonnes per annum to meet the demand in the power sector. For which, the government should open more underground mines to increase coal production and also create employment to reduce unrest among the youth, he added.