Stonebreakers

Meghalaya, India (2019)

Nong Shain Maw: Stonebreakers of the East Khasi Highlands. High in the mountains, covered in mist and forest, elderly women and small children break rocks by hand along the side of the road. Stone chips fly into the faces of the workers, who wear no safety equipment apart from plastic coverings to protect them from the persistent rain in one of the wettest places on earth. These are the 'nong shain maw', a Khasi Indigenous word literally meaning 'the people who break the rock'. 

The Khasi are an Indigenous people who live in the mountains of Meghalaya, a remote state in North-East India. The region is replete with quarries from which limestone rock is hewn and broken up for shipment to Bangladesh.

The men who work at the quarry are called 'nong ti maw', meaning 'the people who dig the rock'. This too is dangerous work, with two men being buried alive in landslides while working at the quarries in 2017. Once the large chunks of rock have been extracted, they are delivered to the 'nong shain maw' to be broken by hammers into various sizes.

The rock is then sold to buyers in Bangladesh, who use it to build roads and to make cement.

For this dangerous and backbreaking work the 'nong shain maw' are paid around $2 a day, and work 12 hours a day, six days a week.

All photos shot on medium format film.