Skip to main content

Gujarat silicosis deaths: Compensation pleas pending with since 2010, NHRC "turns down" plea at public hearing

Inside a silicosis unit in Khambhat, Gujarat
By Our Representative
In a strange paradox, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) did not have time to listen to a foremost representative of victims of silicosis, a fatal occupational disease prevalent in Central Gujarat, Jagdish Patel of the Peoples Training & Research Centre (PTRC), at the public hearing, held on April 27-28, at the high profile Karai Gujarat Police Academy, situated 20 kilometres off Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.
Patel told Counterview in an email message, PTRC was intimated over phone on April 26, 2018 at 6.10 pm to remain present at the hearing by 11 am on April 27. "When I reached at 11 am, I was informed that the hearing on silicosis is over. I was shocked. When I looked at the schedule displayed there, timing for silicosis hearing was between 9.30 am to 10.30 am!"
Later, he said, he had to be "satisfied" with a separate meeting with NGOs at 11.30 am, chaired by NHRC chairman Justice HL Dattu. "I made representation and submitted my written representation", he said. Significantly, several other representatives too complained as to how they were short-shrifted. Dinesh Bhambharia, representing families of Patidars who had died in police firing in Palanpur in 2016, was not allowed to make representation at the public hearing.
HL Dattu
What especially shocked those who had reached the Police Academy was, while Dattu said he was "satisfied" with the state government's response to human rights violations, he was unaware of the state’s actions in the 2012 Thangadh police firing incident, where three Dalit youths were killed or the well-known Una Dalit flogging incident of 2016. “I am hearing of the Thangadh firing incident for the first time,” Dattu has been quoted as saying.
A scribe present at the NHRC hearing told Counterview, "The very presence of top cops at the Police Academy made the public hearing unfriendly for those who had come to represent. Only 27 representations were made by victims, even as policemen and officials were conspicuous with their presence. There was an atmosphere of fear, especially because of the spot chosen for the hearing, something NHRC officials refused to recognize."
In his written representation, Patel said, PTRC had filed 12 complaints regarding 126 confirmed deaths of silicosis deaths among agate workers -- nine about 105 deaths in Khambhat, one about four deaths in Bharuch and two involving 17 deaths in Dahod. This apart, one complaint was made involving 87 positive cases of silicosis among quartz crushing workers of Chhotaudepur district.
The representation said, as against the present compensation for silicosis death, Rs 1 lakh, NHRC asked the Gujarat government to pay Rs 5 lakh to five families of silicosis victims. Later, the recommendation was amended to Rs 4 lakh. "However, the state government has not respected the recommendation. We petitioned before NHRC on May 20, 2017 to take up the matter before the Supreme Court", Patel said.
Jagdish Patel
To get a better view of the condition of agate workers of Khambhat, an NHRC team made a spot inquiry in June 2015, spending six days, meeting all the stake holders before preparing its report. "The recommendations, if implemented in letter and spirit, can pave the way for more just development of agate industry. We represented before the Gujarat chief secretary twice requesting to enforce the recommendations. Our communication has not even been acknowledged."
Suggesting indifference on the part of NHRC, Patel said, complaints regarding silicosis deaths in Dahod and Bharuch districts are pending before it since 2010. Also pending since 2011 are complaints regarding 87 "positive cases" of silicosis Vadodara district. "We humbly request NHRC to pass recommendations in these complaints", he said.
According to Patel, "States like Rajasthan, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh have been paying some relief amount to the workers who are living with silicosis but Gujarat is not paying any amount. One has to wait to die to get relief paid. Those who suffer from silicosis cannot work and earn their bread." He added, "Those who suffer from silicosis are not even considered disabled and do not enjoy any benefits for differently able."
Insisting that there is a need to detect silicosis in several other industries, too, Patel said, Gujarat is a highly industrialized state. It is hub of glass and ceramic industry. There are have several cement plants, mines of manganese, silica, coal, stone and other minerals and mineral processing and quartz crushing units, and a large numbers of foundries where silica is used.
Pointing out that only one foundry in Junagadh district has reports of silicosis death, Patel said, "We have over 1.5 million workers engaged in construction industry who are also exposed to silica. "Still, we have no reports of silicosis from any of these industries. Most such workers are wrongly diagnosed as TB which is very safe and convenient for all concerned", he added.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Very serious ....Some 30 years back Educational Tv Programmes on silicosis deaths were created to creat awareness....NIOH gave full support. Dr.Parikh and Dr.Bhatnagar were very much involved and dedicated...
Uma Sheth said…
Looks like NHRC is on its way to saffronisation

TRENDING

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

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.

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

60 ex-civil servants seek release of CAG reports on Rafale, demonetisation before 2019 polls

Counterview Desk
As many as 60 retired civil servants have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to expedite the release of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports on demonetisation and the Rafale deal. The letter, signed mainly by former Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Service officers, regrets that the status of the audit is "unclear”. According to them, “An impression is gaining ground that CAG is deliberately delaying its audit reports on demonetisation and Rafale deal till after the May 2019 elections so as not to embarrass the present government”.