Stone Dust © Oxfam Australia

Suresh works in this purgatory six days a week.


Nine years old, nearly lost in a hooded sweatshirt with a skateboarder on the chest, he takes football-size chunks of fractured rock and beats them into powder.


Lacking a hammer, he uses a thick steel bolt gripped in his right hand.


In a good week, he says, he can make enough powder to fill half a bag.


“Sometimes when he’s tired, I tell him to stop, but he helps me here most of the time,” she said. “We work every day, to make that powder.", adds his mother.


The boulders here are hard enough that the scavengers who have taken over the abandoned quarry south of downtown prefer not to strike them directly with their hammers.They heat the rocks first — with flaming tires, scrap plastic, even old rubber boots — so that the stones will fracture more easily. At dusk, when three or four blazes spew choking black clouds across the huge pit, the quarry looks like a woodcut out of Dante.


At the mouth of this stone quarry in Pune Maharashtra, diminutive women in saris toil 14 hour shifts breaking boulders into cricket-ball sized chunks of stone. Sledgehammers cut through to the air to the sound of splintering stone. Just behind them roared large machines that chewed up stone only to spit out construction gravel. Almost everybodies face was smeared with a white dust. A dust, heavy and suffocating, floating in the air like mist covering everything.


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Taken on February 25, 2008