Skip to main content

Gujarat govt's anti-pollution watchdog GPCB doesn't consider agate industry hazardous, has no data: NHRC

By Rajiv Shah
In a shocking revelation, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has found that the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), the state government’s powerful anti-pollution watchdog, does not consider agate industry hazardous . It regrets, “As such, GPCB is not having any data regarding omission of silica dust in agate work.”
The report –based on an NHRC team’s spot inquiry last year, acting five years after a complaint filed by Jagdish Patel, a well-known social activist working among agate workers for several decades – says, “No pollution check has been carried out by the GPCB in the premises of agate factories/units.”
The team, which took along with it staff of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to examine the extent of pollution caused by the agate industry in Khambhat taluka of Anand district, says that during a visit to one of the agate registered units, “there was an attempt to wash rooms and roofs where drums had been kept for crushing the agates.”
“Even after washing the rooms including roofs etc., there was enough silica dust present in those rooms. NHRC team themselves witnessed lot of dust despite the cleanings done”, the report, a copy of which is with Counterview, says.
The report, citing the MPCB staff, said the latter conducted air pollution level at one of the factory premises during heavy rain, yet it was found that the Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) levels in the agate units were “almost five times higher than the permissible limit.”
The report says, in official records, provided by the assistant labour commissioner, there are total 13 registered agate units in Khambhat, which were not functioning on government record, and three were functioning. Of the three, license one nit had expired and had not been renewed.
Jagdish Patel
However, it says, “There are many unauthorized agate units, including home-based agate units in Khambhat. There are many home based agate units functioning in residential areas.”
It insists, "Contrary to the claim of the deputy secretary, Government of Gujarat, labour and employment department that no agate unit is situated surrounding the residences the workers, these home based agate units are located in populous areas, which poses health hazard to nearby residents as well as workers themselves.”
The report says, the official data made available to the NHRC team by the district tuberculosis (TB) officer “confirmed” only 10 silicosis death and 38 silicosis TB death cases reported during the last 10 years. It underlines, “However, data of the complainant (Jagdish Patel) reveals that there are 124 deaths due to silicosis and 133 patients suffering from silicosis since 2007.”
Pointing towards lack of qualified doctors in government hospitals, the report says, “Out of the total sanctioned posts of 9 MBBS medical Officers, two posts were vacant”; and out of the total sanctioned posts of nine Ayush (ayurvedic, yunani and other alternative medical systems) medical officers, four posts were vacant.”
The report says, while the district administration of Anand did organize “special medical camps to treat the patients of silicosis disease in 2013-14”, yet “there is no special drive to curb the free respirable silica particles at the manufacturing sites.”
The report, which runs into 48 pages, regrets, though 20 next of kin (NoK) were given Rs 1 lakh each as financial assistance for their death due to silicosis, “No grant of compensation has been given to the patients of silicosis/silico TB disease.”
Worse, the report says, “There is no government scheme for rehabilitation of affected agate workers due to silicosis or their family members. Due to silicosis deaths in a family, living condition of people are miserable. The NoK of the deceased and silicosis patient are illiterate, they are not capable of filling papers for getting any government benefits.”

Comments

TRENDING

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.

Oxfam on WB project: ICT 'ineffective', privatised learning to worsen gender divide

By Rajiv Shah 
A top multinational NGO, with presence in several developed and developing countries, has taken strong exception to the World Bank part-funding Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project in six Indian states – Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha – for its emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled approaches for teacher development, student assessment and digital platform for early childhood education.