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84 fatal accidents, 114 deaths in three years in textile units in Surat, Gujarat: Study supported by German inst

By Rajiv Shah
While a lot is known about fatal accidents caused in Gujarat’s premier shipbreaking yard at Alang because of lack of occupational safety, a yet-to-be-published study “Labour Conditions in Surat Textile Industry", supported by Bonn-based Südwind Institute for Economics and Ecumenism, is all set to create a flutter. It has estimated that, in the last three years, 84 fatal accidents have been reported in registered textile processing units in Surat, in which 114 workers died.
Based on a Right to Information (RTI) replies to a query filed in 2016, the data supplied by the Directorate Industrial Safety and Health, Gujarat, further suggest that as many as 375 workers were seriously injured in accidents in these units.
Authored by Jagdish Patel of the People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), a Vadodara-based advocacy group focused on occupational health, the study says these data do no provide a complete picture as “a large number of units are not registered.”
A scan through the newspaper clippings by PTRC also suggested that “121 workers died and 126 injured in the textile industry in Surat during 2012-15”, the study says. “Most news of injury at work does not reach the newspapers and people at large” since a large number of units “are not registered”, it adds.
Suggesting that there appears to be little awareness about the need to fight the such high accidents, which have continued over the years, and yet the officialdom has remained indifferent, the study says that during 1991-95 as many as 100 fatal accidents took place in Surat. Then, in 2007 and 2008, the study adds, 46 and 36 accidents respectively were reported in Surat.
“These figures speak of the occupational health and safety situation in the textile factories in Surat”, the study says. An analysis of the reasons behind the accidents by it suggests that between 2012 and 2015, of the 121 fatal accidents, 30 took place because of burns, followed by electrocution (27), and what has been called “crushed between two surfaces” (23).
Other reasons for deaths reported include asphyxiation, fall from height, fire and explosion, mechanical injury, gassed, and so on. Giving the example of how these accidents become fatal because of the very nature of the factories, the study quotes the instance of a power loom unit on Ashvini Kumar Road in Surat located in Suryapur Industrial Estate caught fire on October 3, 2015 at 11:45 am.
During the accident except one worker on the second floor -- Nila Nayaka (45) and a male worker -- Krishna Limja (65) on the third floor, all the others could come out safely. The fire brigade rescued the two, but the woman died of asphyxiation.
The study explains, “The fire started on the second floor and spread to the third floor. Machines had been arranged without leaving much distance between two machines and this congested the walkways. Raw material and finished products were also stored on walkways. There were 20 workers in the unit. Workers on the ground floor could get out but workers on the second and third floors were trapped.”
Pointing out that in most cases those who die or are injured are not adequately compensated, the study quotes the instance of one Ajay Raju Yadav, 18, who met with an accident at work in June 2011. Yadav was employed in an embroidery unit. His left hand got entangled in the nip of the roll of the press machine while charging the machine with ladies dress material. Three of his fingers got amputated and the fourth is almost dead.
“A medical expert assessed his disability to be 47%. He was not compensated. The unit was covered under the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Act but the particular worker was not issued identity card under the Act”, the study says.
It was only after a long drawn out battle, carried out by a textile workers’ association, a local court passed an order in May 2013 to pay Rs.2,88,685 towards compensation with interest at the rate of 9% (Rs 86,605) as penalty, and Rs1,000 as cost of the claim. This made the employer to fire the worker. A hearing on the the case continues till date.

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
Frankly, the fact that the workers are not protected does not surprise me. I have seen men and women working on building and road construction sites without any protection. Stories of civic workers contracting fatal diseases or dying while working in the gutters abound. Every time there is a hue and cry for a while (with politicians in opposition crying loudest) and then everything dies down.

What surprises me is that this is happening in Modi's Gujarat. What was he doing while he was CM?

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