Monday, October 19, 2015

Gujarat only state "not accepting" NHRC recommendations, whether it's 2002 riots or deadly silicosis

Agate industry causing silicosis

By Our Representative
A senior National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) official has come down heavily on the Gujarat government for failing to act on some its crucial recommendations, even as stating that other states have implemented them in “99.5 per cent of cases” – whether it was the untimely death workers because of deadly silicosis, an occupational disease, or the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Talking about silicosis deaths, which occurred over the years, the official took strong exception to the Gujarat government unwilling to provide compensation to 238 victims of working mainly in stone polishing work in Dahod, a tribal district, but belonging to Madhya Pradesh, and another five silicosis deaths in Khamhat in Anand district of Central Gujarat.
In an answer a question at a press conference in the office of Gujarat's top gender rights organization, Ahmedabad Women's Action Group (AWAG), Anil Kumar Parashar, joint registrar, NHRC, said, while NHRC was a purely recommendatory body, with no judicial powers, “in most of the cases, states have complied with whatever it suggests to them.”
Parashar was speaking about how, even half-a-decade after it had asked the Gujarat government to pay Rs 3 lakh to each of the Dahod silicosis victims and Rs 5 lakh to the Khambhat silicosis victims, the state has “failed to act.” He was answering the question whether he thought HHRC was a “toothless body.”
“On finding that the state government is not in a mood to act, we have decided to knock the doors of the Supreme Court ensure that the silicosis victims get justice”, Parashar said, adding, “It is an accepted norm across by now to pay compensation, yet it is difficult to say why the state government is not acting.”
Parashar's strong stance on Gujarat came after PTRC's Jagdish Patel, also present at the press conference, pointed to how the state government was refusing to pay compensation to silicosis victims. “The state government has been forwarding spurious arguments. It says, how does one know whether the workers had died of silicosis in Gujarat alone”, Patel said.
Answering another question what did he have to say about the Gujarat government's refusal to implement NHRC recommendations on the 2002 communal riots, and if this also did not suggest the NHRC did not have teeth, Parashar said, “While the riots are not under my purview, it is true that we were forced to approach the Supreme Court. Rest is all well known to everyone, and I don't want to add more.”
Parashar was in Gujarat as part of NHRC preparations for organizing six-month-long public hearings on right to health in public and private health sector, to take place over the next six months in Mumbai, Chennai, Raipur, Guwahati, Lucknow and Chandigarh. NHRC will be holding public hearings in association with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), an all-India health advocacy group.
The Gujarat NGOs which are in direct contact with NHRC for the public hearing, apart from AWAG, Anandi another gender rights group, and People's Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara – all members of JSA. PTRC has been working with the victims of silicosis, especially in Khambhat, for decades.
Briefing newspersons about the public hearing, Parashar suggested that refusal to take complaints against the private sector is a major NHRC weakness.
The NHRC insisted, “The law clearly states all complaints made to us have to be necessarily against government officials. But, we find that complaints against private sector involvement in the health sector are piling up. If we get more evidence during the pubic hearing, we will certainly ask the Government of India to change the law.”

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