ORHAN – In Soma, disaster strikes hearts of those closest to it all

In Soma, disaster strikes hearts of those closest to it allTurkey was shaken hard by the events of Tuesday afternoon. The news coming out of Soma has drowned the country in agonizing pain and mourning. And as more time passes, the number of deaths continues to rise. As of Thursday, the number of deaths is 284And so it is that once again a calamity affects the immediate victims of an event most strongly. It seems that these kinds of disasters are met with a united sense of pain and mourning, but when it’s all over, the real victims realize they are left all alone. Yes, this has been the case forever.Commemorations, remembrances, ceremonies for those dead and gone — all of these will come to an end one day. Of course what won’t come to an end is the pain and mourning of the victims’ spouses, mothers, fathers and children whose hearts have been torn apart. Their pain and mourning will last a lifetime. What’s more, these mourners are without identities or support.According to statistics on these matters, a full 98 percent of work accidents in Turkey could have been prevented. And again according to statistics, 3,000 people have lost their lives in mining accidents in Turkey in the last 70 years.Governments have changed, society has changed, living standards have increased but there is one thing which remains unchanged (and it is something which, if it remains the same, means we are destined to have more Somas in our future): Unfortunately, Turkey is ranked fourth out of 34 countries in terms of the high number of work accidents in the mining sector.Looking at statistics going back to 2000, the US has had a 0.2 percent loss of human life for every 1 million tons of lignite (brown coal) produced. China’s percentage is around 1 percent. Turkey’s statistics on this front are some seven times higher than those of China.The privatization of the mining sector has led to a form of subcontracting situation. But in fact there is no significant difference in production between the times when the state ran mining and since mining was privatized.Turkey has a great need for energy though it neither has the petrol nor the natural gas it needs. In other words, it’s a fairly simple equation: Turkey is forced to mine the coal reserves it has underground. But what price is it forced to pay for this?Is human life really this cheap? So cheap that we can afford to lose hundreds of lives, all in the name of producing energy?Neither reason nor conscience can explain how it is that, in the pursuit of fulfilling our energy needs, we have thousands of people toiling away underground in shifts — almost as though we are at war — with salaries kept in line not with European levels but rather more with the standards of countries in the East, where salaries range from $3,000-5,000 a year.One of the miners in Soma who was rescued had spoken about this. He noted that the head miners there earn between TL 1,500-1,700, while the lower level miners earn somewhere between TL 1,000-1,200.Someone had asked one of the miners who was rescued whether he would return to work in the mines. He said he was forced to after all, he has debts to repay to the bank.In the mining sector, there is a mechanism at work which relies on the exploitation of poverty, a lack of hope and general fears of unemployment. And under the shadows of the heavy and painful price paid in Soma, all of the various aspects of this mechanism have been fully exposed.It is clear that we need to address the mining sector in full once again, from labor safety policies and the setting of salaries to determining the real reasons behind the disaster in Soma. And no political party should try to use these events to its own aantage while this is happening. What is clear is that in this matter of life and death, we — labor unions, civil society organizations, political parties, leaders and society — have all failed.What we need now is national cooperation and unity. It should be a unity that starts off in Soma and makes its way all the way to Parliament.If coal really needs to be mined for the purposes of heating and lighting our homes, the miners themselves should not pay the price of this with their lives.

SOURCE: Today Zaman

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