Originally published by The Times of India – September 2016.
Nagpur: While it is still a male-dominated sector, a woman from Vidarbha has made a name for herself in the mining industry which has a reputation of being rough, remote and dangerous. At a time when girls were barred from even considering an education in mining, Chandrani Verma, now 39, took special permission from the high court in the 90s and finished her degree with the first merit position at Nagpur University (NU). Today, she is the first Indian woman to complete a PhD in mining, according to information provided by VNIT.
Born and bought up in Chandrapur and currently a resident of Nagpur, Verma will receive her PhD degree at VNIT’s 14th convocation ceremony here on Thursday. Solving a grave problem in the country’s mining sector where a huge proportion of locked up coal could not be extracted due to safety constraints, Verma’s revolutionary thesis has come out as a hope.
Verma’s father used to be an employee at WCL, Chandrapur. She too developed a passion for the sector and wanted to make a career in it.
In 1993, after completing her SSC, she opted for a diploma in mining department (Polytechnic). Later, Verma tried to take admission in Bachelor in Engineering (BE), but the department did not permit to women candidates. Believing that education sector cannot be gender biased, Verma took special permission from HC and got enrolled at Ramdeo Baba College’s mining department in 1997, where she received the first merit position. In 2006 she completed her MTech at VNIT and a year later got married.
Verma is currently working as senior scientist in the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research (CSIR-CIMFR). In December 2015, Verma completed her PhD on ‘Web Pillar Design in Highwall Mining’ under the guidance of Dr NR Thote, at the VNIT mining department and the well known numerical modelling expert Dr John Loui Porathur, principal Scientist, CIMFR. It took her four and a half year to complete it.
Talking to TOI from Rajasthan where she currently deputed, Verma said, “In India more than 85% of coal production is from open cast mines. However, a good amount of coal is left in the final hallway of opencast mines, either due to the labour’s safety constraint or due to protection to important safety structure. This coal can be extracted economically by application of Highwall mining technology.”
Verma added that there are very few universities that offer mining courses in India. “Nagpur University still doesn’t allow girls. A woman is still prohibited from working underground, except for a visit of few minutes. However, I try to work underground as much as I can to gain practical experience. Being a mining engineer, my husband has been extremely supportive to me.”