Skip to main content

Include all workers exposed to silica dust in anti-TB programme: Govt of India told

Counterview Desk
In a letter, sponsored by well-known civil rights organization, Occupational & Environmental Health Network of India and signed by more than 60 professionals and activists*, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has been told that Indian policy makers shouldn't just acknowledge higher TB risk to mine and stone crusher workers, but also “other silica-exposed workers”.
The letter insists, “Silica-dust exposures among miners, building and construction, stone cutting/crushers, pottery, steel and allied factory, ceramic, thermal power and other workers increases the risk of active TB by three to four times”, adding, “The combination of silicosis and HIV further increases the risk of acquiring active TB by 15 times.”
It says, against this backdrop, it is time the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) should “recognize and prioritize all silica-exposed workers for screening and treatment services”, and not just those that have been listed.

Text:

We are contacting you in regards to the National Strategic Plan for Tuberculosis (TB) Elimination (2017–2025) and associated policies being implemented by Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) in regards to targeted screening and interventions. We are a concerned group of health professionals and NGOs working to increase awareness of the opportunities to prevent TB with silica dust controls in the workplace.
For more than one hundred years, silica dust has been linked to higher TB prevalence rates among workers in dusty occupations. Multiple studies from India and abroad have demonstrated that silica-dust exposures among miners, building and construction, stone cutting/crushers, pottery, steel and allied factory, ceramic, thermal power and other workers increases the risk of active TB by three to four times. The combination of silicosis and HIV further increases the risk of acquiring active TB by 15 times.
We note that the National Strategic Plan does acknowledge the risk to mine and stone crusher workers as priorities for active case finding, but it fails to mention other silica-exposed workers and it does not provide any road map for preventing TB among this vulnerable population.
The five prioritized risk groups listed (page 66) mention silicosis patients, but not silica-exposed workers. In addition, we know that informal sector workers tend to have higher silica dust exposures and less access to medical services and therefore this subpopulation should be given greater attention.
The recent UN General Assembly Declaration from the High-level Meeting on TB requires countries to commit to “implementing primary prevention in high-risk occupations by reducing silica dust exposures in mining, construction and other dusty workplaces.” Efforts to target vulnerable workers and communities should incorporate training with strategies to implement silica-dust control measures.
Published studies have demonstrated that the adoption of low-cost wet processing methods in India can reduce respirable silica dust among highly-exposed workers by 80% in these operations. Studies conducted among miners and quarry workers have shown that reducing silica dust can significantly reduce TB incidence. In acknowledging these risks, other national TB programmes have adopted policies calling for increased regulation to improve workplace dust controls.
Therefore, we are requesting the following response on behalf of the RNTCP:
  1. Formally recognize and prioritize all silica-exposed workers for screening and treatment services.
  2. Expand programmes with NGO partners to include training, capacity building, mapping and in targeting high-risk workers for screening and treatment services. 
  3. Initiate inter-ministerial level dialogue to improve regulations and its application on respirable silica dust controls in the workplace and build capacity among the inspectorates to enforce these measures. 
  4. Initiate a programme to target informal sector workers for TB surveillance and control in construction, quarries, mining, and other dusty workplaces in particularly for migrant workers.  
  5. Increase training opportunities for medical officers in RNTCP programme to improve the diagnoses of silicosis and silico-tuberculosis and in particular, the NIOSH “B” reader certification. 
  6. Join in efforts at the Supreme Court and at the National Human Rights Commission to recognize TB and silicosis as compensable diseases for informal sector workers with a history of silica-dust exposures. 
We urge the RNTCP to implement these measures to help achieve its goal of eliminating TB in India by 2030.
Please respond to Jagdish Patel, national coordinator (oehni.del@gmail.com), to inform us on progress with these requests. List of the people who have endorsed this letter is attached herewith which includes luminaries in their own field spreading across the globe.
---
*Click HERE for the list of signatories

Comments

TRENDING

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Modi govt 'implementing' IMF-envisaged corporate takeover of Indian agriculture

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* The surge of wealth of Indian billionaires and the Modi-led BJP government’s onslaught on poor, marginalised and farmers continue to grow simultaneously as masses face annihilating pandemic of coronavirus. There is 90 % rise of Indian billionaire’s wealth over last one decade. It is not accidental.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

A new fad in India, coding-for-toddlers culture needs to be 'nipped' in the bud

By Aditya Pandey* We are all aware of the dire consequences of subjecting young kids to intense academic pressure from an early age. In India, we have coaching institutes like FIITJEE and Resonance offering programmes for 6th standard kids to prepare them for “NTSE, IJSO, PRMO and other Olympiads”. The duration of these programmes is around 175 hours – hours that could've been spent playing games and making friends instead.

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.

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.