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Second silicosis death in less than two months' time in Gujarat's ceramic hub

By Our Representative
In a second death in a little more than a month’s time, another person suffering from silicosis, Mahendrabhai Vaghela, has passed away in Thangarh, Surendranagar district, which is a ceramic hub of Gujarat. Vaghela died of silicosis on September 28, while Hareshbhai, 46, also from Thangarh, working in a ceramic unit, succumbed to the disease on August 24 this year.
Aged 49, Mahendrabhai worked for several years in glazes in various ceramic units in Thangarh. Two years ago he was diagnosed of tuberculosis. However, last July, the Civil Hospital in Rajkot found that he was in the grip of the deadly silicosis. For the last six months, he was experiencing increasing breathlessness.
Mahendrabhai worked as a casual worker for the last three years. He worked in several Thangarh units, but no one enrolled him under the Employees State Insurance (ESI) scheme. Under ESI rules, the contribution of all workers for ESI is compulsory starting from the very first day. But nobody seemed to care. Mahendrabhai has left behind his widow Ranjanben, and son Prashant (21) and daughter Vaishali (17).
Bringing this to light, well-known health rights activist, Jagdish Patel, said, “Silicosis is an occupational disease which can be prevented but not cured. The factories Act has sufficient provisions to prevent the disease. The pottery industry in Thangarh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are now employed here.”
Pointing out that there are around ceramic 180 units in the town and its surrounding areas, employing about 20,000 workers, Patel regrets in an email alert, it is not known how many have died because of silicosis in Thangarh.
According to Patel, “While the National Human Rights Commission recently made several recommendations to the Gujarat government after hearing complaints from five silicosis victims, and the Supreme Court appointed two committees to look into the plight of silicosis victims following a public interest petition (PIL), none of these committees have visited ceramic units of Thangarh.”

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