Skip to main content

Gujarat agate workers use potentially low preventive practices to 'evade' deadly silicosis

By Rajiv Shah
A decade ago the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) may have come up with a Global Programme for the Elimination of Silicosis by 2030. However, a new research paper co-authored by Canada-based scholars in association with senior Gujarat activist Jagdish Patel of the People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, suggests that the goal may not be easy to achieve, given the refusal of agate workers to believe in the efficacy of preventing the deadly disease.
Based on a survey of 1,120 respondents (agate workers 743, family members 277, and neighbours 100) in Khambhat, Central Gujarat, one of India’s top hubs for drilling, cutting and polishing agate – a home-based industry which employs up to 50,000 workers are employed across the country – the semi‐precious stone is used to make jewellery and other decorative items, which are exported to the US, Hong Kong, Thailand, and European countries.
Titled “Reducing agate dust exposure in Khambhat, India: Protective practices, barriers, and opportunities”, and published in the “Journal of Occupational Health”, the study says, while 44%, 35%, and 8% of agate workers, their family members, and neighbours, respectively, use some form of prevention practices, because the knowledge and risk perceptions are “generally high” among them, only 33.8% did not believe in the efficacy of measures they adopt.
The study notes, “The majority did not believe or were unsure if agate dust inhalation could be prevented", adding, not without reason, majority of individuals (61.4%) did not use any effective "prevention practices.” The most commonly used preventive practices, says the study, are “a dust mask, cloth, or scarf (roughly 60% of all individuals); wet handling (roughly 30% of all individuals); and enclosing or moving the process away from family members.”
Calling the use of these prevention practices having “potentially low efficacy”, the study says, “The majority of all individuals (69.6%) knew that very fine dust was the type most dangerous to health” and that “the most commonly known health consequence of inhalation was difficulty in breathing or coughing.” It adds, “About 70% of individuals reported that they breathed enough dust to be harmful to their health, indicating generally high perception of risk.”
Researchers from Canada who worked in association the PTRC activist for the study are from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Canada (Lindsey Falk, Paul Bozek, Lissa Ceolin, Mercedes Sobers, Donald C Cole), the Workplace Health Without Borders, Mississauga, Canada (Marianne Levitsky), and the Environmental Consulting Occupational Health, Mississauga (Om Malik).
The study states, though “majority of individuals surveyed (87.8%) knew that agate dust was harmful to health”, and they had learned about this from friends or family members (45.7%), health‐care workers (26.9%), or the PTRC (26.6%)”, yet, less than 3% reported that their source of knowledge are employers. A home-based industry, over 40% of workers work for an agate industry entrepreneur.
Bemoaning that “ventilation methods were only identified by approximately 5% of individuals”, the study says, approximately 20.3% of workers reported prevention was too expensive, with only 23% of workers were willing to invest in an exhaust system for dust control. It adds, “Among them, 72.6% reported that they could invest Rs 5,000 or less”, though “most workers reported being able to invest only after 6 months to a year”, as “half of all workers reported owing debt.”
Further, says that study, “Only 30% of workers reported being willing to invest in new technologies. Among these individuals, approximately half were only willing to invest Rs 2,000. Interestingly having debt was not associated with the willingness to invest, suggesting that factors beyond cost could limit prevention practices currently or in the future.”

Comments

Vinay Shukla said…
This all Indian phenomenon. No work culture
Uma said…
What Mr. Shukla says is correct. It is not just the lack of protection in ALL industries which is shameful; what is worse is that the people in charge do not care because they know they are not going to be punished for it. The workers themselves are so desperate for employment that they dare not protest--the protesters will be fired as there are many desperate and willing to take up these jobs.

TRENDING

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

Dalits rights meet planned on how citizenship law 'negates' Ambedkar's equality focus

By Our Representative
A Dalit rights meet has been planned at the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), Sanand, Ahmedabad district, to discuss implications of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed by Parliament on December 10-11, for Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalized sections. Announcing the decision, DSK director Martin Macwan said, the meet would take place on December 25, 2019, at 11.00 am, to commemorate the anniversary of burning of copies of Manusmriti by Dr BR Ambedkar.

What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

Upendra Baxi on foolish excellence, Indian judges and Consitutional cockroaches

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial assertion, top legal expert Upendra Baxi has sought to question India's Constitution makers for neglecting human rights and social justice. Addressing an elite audience in Ahmedabad, Prof Baxi said, the constitutional idea of India enunciated by the Constituent Assembly tried to resolve four key conflicting concepts: governance, development, rights and justice.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.