Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Deadly occupational disease silicosis kills 15th victim in Gujarat, highest No of deaths since 2010

Shantaben, 15th victim of deadly silicosis in 2014
By Our Representative
Shantaben Khushalbhai Parmar, 55, has become the 15th victim of the deadly silicosis disease, widely prevalent among workers working in the agate industry of Central Gujarat, particularly in the Khambhat area. She breathed her last on July 8 morning. With the death of Shantaben, the year 2014 has already recorded the highest number of deaths due to silicosis since 2010. She lost her husband of silicosis long back. In December 2011 she lost her eldest son Raju at the age of 35 because of silicosis.
Recalling how Raju fought the powerful people in his effort to get justice, NGO People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), which has been taking up silicosis workers’ cause for several years, has said, he was a “great fighter”. Raju, according to PTRC, “filed application under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, for getting himself freed from debt-bondage from his employer”.
Karima Rashidbhai Malek
Though Raju submitted his application with the district collector, Anand, and later with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to get himself free of the “bondage”, things failed to move. “He could not get certificate from authorities till he died”, PTRC said, pointing towards the hurdle he faced as a labourer. “But in process, we were able to get some documents which proved employer-employee relationship”, said PTRC.
These documents, PTRC said, helped Raju to “file claim for compensation under the Employees’ Compensation Act, 2011. “Pending hearing Raju died so we got his mother register as applicant in this claim. She filed her statement and she was cross examined. Still, the case is pending, and now it was her turn to die.”
PTRC said, “Shantaben was suffering from silico-tuberculosis. She is survived by two of her sons and we will have to get one of her sons to continue with the struggle. We do not know the fate but this is a blow to the struggle. This is first ever compensation claim filed by any of the agate worker for silicosis”, adding, “On July 4 Karima Rashidbhai Malek, a widow, died of silicosis, becoming the 14th victim of the deadly occupational disease.”
PTRC further said, “The Government of Gujarat has come out with a scheme for paying Rs. 1 lakh to the families of workers dying of silicosis.” Suggesting a major drawback, it adds, “One has to apply within one month of death. Two applications have been filed by the PTRC -- one for Arvind Parmar, who died on June 10, and Bashirmiya Belim, who died on June 22. If they receive the amount, they will be the first to receive the benefit.”

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