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Asad Sheikh becomes ninth victim of deadly silicosis disease in Gujarat, even as govt remains indifferent

By Our Representative
Asad Shekh, age 35, has become the ninth victim of the deadly silicosis this year in Gujarat. Sheikh, who died of the disease on December 12, 2013, at his home in Pirajpur village in Khambhat taluka, was under treatment for the last two years and was bed-ridden for the last four months. Last he was having treatment at the clinic of People's Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadadara. Sheikh worked as agate worker forthe last 15 years, said Jagdish Patel, who runs PTRC, an NGO fighting for the cause of silicosis victims in Gujarat as also neighbouring states.
Patel said, "Sheikh has left behind his wife Sabina and three children. Shekh was the second victims of silicosis in Gujarat in December. The earlier victim, on December 7,2013, was Ismail Mohammad,55, who died in Shakarpur. He used to work as agate polisher in Jaipur for the last 12 years. He is survived by his wife and two sons, one of whom is mentally retarded."
Significantly, the Gujarat government had declared in May 2012 that it would pay Rs 1 lakh to the kin of those who die of silicosis. The declaration remains on paper, as not one silicosis worker has so far been paid the compensation. 
“Other states, including Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, have begun to pay to the kin of those who die of silicosis, but the scheme remains unimplemented in Gujarat”, regrets Patel. “Push from the National Human Rights Commission, too, has failed to motivate the state government to take any concrete steps in right direction. In 2013 as many as silicosis sufferers breathed their last, which included a female.”
A government resolution (GR) was put out to compensation last year to kin of silicosis victims. Ahead of the GR, activists working for the cause of silicosis victims were glad that, finally, the Gujarat government had recognised that silicosis was a deadly disease whose victims must be compensated. The activists had represented to the state government officials that the compensation amount should be Rs 3 lakh. They also wanted to ensure that the GR was implemented with effect from June 25, 2007. They demanded simultaneous setting up of facilities, which would ensure quick and early treatment from silicosis. However, to their surprise, this did not happen.
Worse, implementation of the GR got bogged down in interdepartmental issues. The rural labour commissioner, approached to get the forms for compensation, told the activists that it was in the process of “resolving certain issues”, hence no forms could be given. Further investigation by them led them to find that the GR provided compensation based on insurance. 
The GR made no mention of the premium, hence it was found to be not implementable. The volunteers were also told that even if the government decided to pay the premium, the insurance company would be unwilling to pay, coming up with some explanation or the other.

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