Skip to main content

Silicosis deaths: Gujarat govt failed to "ensure" safety measures in stone cutting units, says NHRC

By Our Representative
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sharply criticized the Gujarat government for failing to ensure that stone cutting units operating in the state complied by the “standards of safety” and were taking “steps for diagnosis and treatment” of those who suffered from the deadly silicosis disease. Referring to a complaint filed by Jagdish Patel of the People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, seeking the NHRC’s intervention in payment of compensation to five workers employed in stone crushing factories in Godhra town, who had died because of silicosis, the NHRC said, “The state cannot escape the liability to compensate the families of the deceased labourers.”
“Recommending” the state government to pay Rs 5 lakh to each of the silicosis workers who had died, the NHRC order said, a proof of the payment should be submitted “within six weeks.” The workers who died of silicosis are Chimanbhai Nathabhai, Kokila Komal Tansing, Mukeshbhai Manjibhai Damor, Fakira Veersing Damor, and Mangubhai Surtanbhai Damor. The NHRC order is dated October 22, 2013, and Patel says, December 17 was the last day for “implementing” the “recommendation”. He adds, as it has not been implemented, it is "another battle which would need to be fought", but believes NHRC has given "enough reason for it."
The NHRC acted on the basis of a complaint it received from Patel on September 26, 2011 in which he had listed the names of the five persons who were employed in stone crushing factories in Godhra and died. The complaint had said, all five were afflicted by silicosis during the course of employment and diagnosed as patients of silicosis by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad, which had carried out monitoring of the working environment in registered factories in Godhra and had suggested engineering control measures.
Following the complaint, the NHRC statement, which containing its “recommendation”, said, “The suggestion of NIOH was enforced by the Directorate Industrial Safety and Health, Gujarat government.” Thereafter, the NIOH again carried out “monitoring of working environment in these factories and found that the level of respirable dust was within limit.” However, as regards one of the five labourers mentioned in the list by Patel, the NHRC added, the state government submitted that four of them worked in the registered factories in Godhra, but the fifth one, Damor Mangubhai Surtanbhai, did not work in a registered factory, suggesting he could not be compensation.
This led the NHRC to forward a copy of the state government report to Patel for comments. In his response, Patel said that Mangubhai Surtanbhai was “diagnosed as a patient suffering from silicosis by NIOH during the camp held at community health centre (CHC), Zalod, on October 26-27, 2004”, and on being questioned about occupational history, he had indeed said he had worked in one of the registered silica crushing units in Godhra. Patel also pointed out that the report of the state government did not give any information regarding the action taken by ESIC.
Patel simultaneously refuted the claim of the state government that the level of respirable dust was within the limit prescribed by the NIOH. He forwarded an article in which the NIOH stated that, despite efforts, the dust levels in the factories were still much above the limit prescribed by the Indian Factories Act. On October 22, 2012, the NHRC examined th”e report of the state government and Patel’s critique.
The NHRC found that the very fact that these five labourers were diagnosed as suffering from silicosis, negatived the state's claim that the respirable dust in the concerned factories was within the prescribed limit. It observed, that Right to Life was guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It observed, the life of labourers working in factories was as precious as that of any other citizen. And it was the duty of the state to ensure that the factories where the labourers work maintain appropriate standards of safety prescribed under various laws.
It pointed out, the fact that the five labourers were diagnosed as patient of silicosis indicated that the factories were not maintaining the required standard of safety and the state failed in its duty to enforce maintaining such standards. Therefore, the state could not escape its liability to compensate the families of the deceased labourers. Based on this, it directed the Government of Gujarat under section 18 of the Prevention of Human Rights Act, 1993, requiring it to show cause, as to why monetary relief to the tune of Rs 5 lakh each be not given to the next of kin of the deceased.
In response, joint secretary, labour and employment, Government of Gujarat justified the refusal to pay compensation on December 15, 2012, saying, during inquiry, it could not be ascertained that deceased Mangubhai Sultanbhai had worked in any registered factory, and therefore in his case, the provisions of ESIC were not attracted. As regards the four others, the matter was taken up with the ESIC. In their cases, either the case was not found covered under the ESIC scheme or the case was withdrawn. Therefore no compensation had so far been paid to any of the five workers.
The state government further said that the grant of compensation came under the purview of the government policy and was required to be decided keeping in view other factors involved and attached with each case. On considering the matter, the NHRC found that the state government had given no “specific denial that the five labourers named in the show cause notice were not patients of silicosis”, recommending the compensation be paid.

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

"Misleading" satellite images being shared on Balakot surgical strike on Jaish camp

By Dr Vinay Kate*
With every passing day more questions are being raised about the surgical strike India did in Balakot as a response to Pulwama attacks. So far the Indian media has claimed mass casulaty of 300+ terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad in this surgical strike, but there is hardly any report from foreign media about the same.

Extreme repression, corporate loot, cultural genocide "characterise" India's tribal belt

Counterview Desk
As Lok Sabha polls approach, there is considerable ferment in one section of the population -- India's Adivasis, forming about 8.6 per cent of India's population. Things became particularly critical following the February 14, 2019 Supreme Court order, allegedly seeking to evict lakhs of tribals from their forest lands.

Industry in India "barely growing", export growth 0%, whither moral anchors?

Counterview Desk
In a sharp critique of the Modi government, the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), one of world renowned economist Prof Kaushik Basu, who is Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, has told students at the IIM-A’s 54th Annual Convocation on March 16, 2019 that they have a “special responsibility” on their shoulders, “the responsibility to reject narrow sectarianism, uphold scientific thinking, openness to new ideas, and freedom of speech.”

Gujarat model? Industrial effluents "invade" borewells, discharge coloured water in farms

By Rajiv Shah
In a major embarrassment for Gujarat model, of the 21 samples taken by officials of the state government's environmental watchdog Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in two villages of Vadodara district and analyzed by its laboratory in Gandhinagar, the state capital, to find out pollution level in groundwater, 16 were assessed as highly contaminated – these were, in fact, found to be discharging reddish, brownish, reddish, or yellowish water.

Refugees as criminals? US govt report blames Amit Shah for calling Bangladeshis termites

Counterview Desk
The chapter “Freedom of Movement” of the US State Department’s “India 2018 Human Rights Report”, released recently, has criticized BJP chief Amit Shah for terming alleged Bangladeshis who may be in Assam as “termites”, because their names were struck down from the list of National Register of Citizens, under preparation in the state.
Pointing out that four million residents were excluded from Assam’s final draft list, leading to “uncertainty over the status of these individuals, many of whose families had lived in the state for several generations”, the report regrets, the Indian law does not even contain the term “refugee,” treating refugees like Rohingiyas as “any other foreigners.”
“Undocumented physical presence in the country is a criminal offense. Persons without documentation were vulnerable to forced returns and abuse”, the report says.
Text of the Freedom of Movement chapter: The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, a…

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Congress would win just 9 of 26 Lok Sabha seats: Gujarat Assembly segment-wise analysis

By Rajiv Shah
Even as the Congress plans its first working committee meet in Gujarat on February 28 after an almost 58 year gap, there is reason to wonder what is in store for India’s grand old party in a state which has been long been a BJP bastion – in fact ever since mid-1990s. Ahead of the then assembly polls in late 2012, talking with me, a senior Gujarat Congress leader, currently Rajya Sabha MP, frankly said he saw no reason why Congress would win.

"Pro-corporate" Supreme Court order on FRA would further marginalize Adivasis

By VS Roy David, JP Raju*
For millions of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers February 13, 2019 will go down in history as the day of apocalypse. This is like the proverbial Black Friday where millions of most marginalized people of India were ordered by malicious anti-people draconian Supreme Court order depriving them the life and livelihood by evicting them from their habitats.

Financial inclusion? Not micro-loans; India's poor "need" investment in health, education

By Moin Qazi*
India has grown into a global powerhouse. Its economy is soaring but the picture on the ground is still quite arid. The green shoots that you see are only a patch of its landscape. Most Indians are hapless victims of inequity. India is one country where intense poverty abounds in the shadow of immense wealth.