Friday, July 29, 2016

Gujarat govt "admits" 27 deaths due to deadly silicosis in Khambhat taluka, NHRC sends report, awaits reply

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government's official records, quoted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), have admitted that, in Khambhat taluka of Anand district alone, during the six years, from 2010 to 2015, as many as 27 workers suffering from the deadly silicosis or silico tuberculosis (TB) died because of their work in agate units.
Quoting official records, the NHRC – whose team visited Khambhat taluka last year in order to detect a complaint from Jagdish Patel of the People's Research and Training Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, about the failure of the state government to recognize intensity of the disease – said, in all 2,371 workers were “medically examined” during the period in question, and of these 43 silico TB and 22 silicosis cases were detected. Of these “27 workers died”.
PTRC's Patel told Counterview, “The NHRC has already sent the report to the Gujarat government, which is sitting on it for the last eight months. I have written to the NHRC to expedite our demand that the minimum compensation to be paid should be Rs 4 lakh per death, apart from Rs 1 lakh to each silicosis/ silico TB patient.” 
Giving a breakup the spread of the disease, the NHRC said in its report based on the visit of the team, that, in 2010, 778 workers were medically examined, of which 11 silico TB and 8 silicosis cases were detected. In 2011, 83 workers were medically examined, out of which 4 silico TB and 4 silicosis cases were detected. In 2012, 26 workers were medically examined, out of which 1 silico TB and 1 silicosis cases were detected.”
Further: “In 2013, 240 workers were medically examined out of which 4 silico TB and 1 silicosis cases were detected. In 2014, 466 workers were medically examined in which 18 silico TB and 7 silicosis cases were detected. And in 2015, 778 workers were medically examined out of which 5 silico TB and 1 silicosis cases were detected.”
The NHRC team, which took testimony of next of kin (NoK) of about a dozen workers who died due to the deadly disease, said, as per the data provided by the district TB officer, district Anand, out of 59 applications which were processed for compensation of Rs 1 lakh each against the death of each silicosis or silico TB patient, only in 20 cases the compensation has been paid.
On the other hand, it says, 39 applications for financial assistance were “rejected”, five because of “incomplete record where names of candidates were not included” and the rest “on the ground of non-silicosis lung disease”.
The report comes amidst the state government's loud claiming that there are “no silicosis cases in Khambhat” because there are “registered units” working in the town. “The state government said this during a recent presentation before the Government of India on the deadly occupational disease”, said Patel.
The NHRC took a total of 34 testimonies of patients suffering from silicosis or silico TB who contracted the disease working in agate industry in Khambhat town and the rural areas of Khambhat taluka.
During the testimonies, one of the NoK said that “there is no other opportunity for employment in Khambhat”, hence they were “forced to work in agate processing units”. A patient told the NHRC team that though the government doctors “briefed” him and his relatives of silicosis and its causes, he continued working in an agate unit for livelihood.
Others variously complained that they were “never been cautioned about the risk of grinding agate”, that no one from labour or factory department “ever visited him” despite suffering from the deadly disease, that there was no medical examination to rule out silicosis, and that there are many home-based agate processing units in the residential areas.

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