Skip to main content

US Swaminarayan network 'responsible' for deadly silicosis at Rajasthan mining site

Counterview Desk 

Top civil rights network, Occupational and Environmental Health Network India (OEHNI), which is known to work for occupational safety and health (OSH) rights, has said that not only are the Swaminarayan temple owners in New Jersey responsible for “violating” the labour law of the US by paying a meagre $1 per hour to its workers, it is should also take the responsibility for high level of silicosis in Sirohi, Rajasthan, where stand stone for the temple is mined.
In a statement, Jagdish Patel, national coordinator, OEHNI, said, stones so carved in Rajasthan are exported to the sites where this temple is being built. More than 200 workers who were taken to New Jersey site were made to work for long hours and not paid minimum wages, even as “silica dust levels at work were neither monitored nor maintained as per US standards.”

Text:

OEHNI was shocked to learn about the plight of the Indian migrant workers who were flown to the USA by their employer to build a Hindu religious sect Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) temple in the New Jersey state. We thank and congratulate the International Commission on Dalit Rights for filing a law suit for violating labour laws like minimum wages and safety at work. We appreciate and congratulate the brave workers who have dared to bring this challenge on foreign soil where they have poor political and social support.
BAPS has their workshops in Sirohi district in Rajasthan where sand stone in mined and worked on by the local craftsmen to carve the arches, designs and statues as per the drawings provided to them. They are exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust which is not monitored. Hundreds of stone workers have been victims of silicosis and have died prematurely. Most of these workers in India are not covered by social security and are not paid any compensation by the employer. Instead the state Government in Rajasthan pays them some relief.
Stones so carved in Rajasthan are exported to the sites where this temple is being built. It is shocking to know that more than 200 workers who were taken to New Jersey site were made to work for long hours, were not paid minimum wages in US and were working in hazardous conditions. From what we understand, the silica dust levels at work were neither monitored nor maintained as per US standards.
What is more shocking is to know that their passports were being confiscated by the employer to restrict their freedom. Most workers who do not know English must have very hard time. Their right to work with dignity was robbed from them. One of the sustainable development goals is Goal 8.8 Decent work which has been forgotten by the employer of these workers.
When they have been rescued, we hope and believe that they will be taken care of by the local Government and local supporters. We laud the statement issued by the The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craft workers and its Administrative District Council of New Jersey (BAC) along with the Pathar Gadhai Mazdoor Suraksha Sangh (PGMSS).
We support the action taken by the International Commission on Dalit Rights and we stand by the brave struggle waged by the workers. It will open up new windows to look at the conditions of the migrant workers brought under the name of religious volunteers. We demand quick and full justice for these workers.
We also recognize that workers in Rajasthan produce for temples in the United States and as an importing country; it should be concerned about the workers safety and work conditions. We also appeal to the Indian diaspora, who would be among the largest number of devotees of these temples to stand by the workers.

Comments

TRENDING

Vaccine nationalism? Covaxin isn't safe either, perhaps it's worse: Experts

By Rajiv Shah  I was a little awestruck: The news had already spread that Astrazeneca – whose Indian variant Covishield was delivered to nearly 80% of Indian vaccine recipients during the Covid-19 era – has been withdrawn by the manufacturers following the admission by its UK pharma giant that its Covid-19 vector-based vaccine in “rare” instances cause TTS, or “thrombocytopenia thrombosis syndrome”, which lead to the blood to clump and form clots. The vaccine reportedly led to at least 81 deaths in the UK.

'Scientifically flawed': 22 examples of the failure of vaccine passports

By Vratesh Srivastava*   Vaccine passports were introduced in late 2021 in a number of places across the world, with the primary objective of curtailing community spread and inducing "vaccine hesitant" people to get vaccinated, ostensibly to ensure herd immunity. The case for vaccine passports was scientifically flawed and ethically questionable.

'Misleading' ads: Are our celebrities and public figures acting responsibly?

By Deepika* It is imperative for celebrities and public figures to act responsibly while endorsing a consumer product, the Supreme Court said as it recently clamped down on misleading advertisements.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

US 'frustrated' with India’s discomfort: Maritime exercise in South China Sea

By Vijay Prashad*  In early April 2024, the navies of four countries -- Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States -- held a maritime exercise in the South China Sea. Australia’s Warramunga, Japan’s Akebono, the Philippines’ Antonio Luna, and the United States’ Mobile worked together in these waters to strengthen their joint abilities and -- as they said in a joint statement  -- to “uphold the right to freedom of navigation and overflight and respect for maritime rights under international law.” 

Dadi, poti discuss 'injustice' under 10 yr Modi rule: Video campaign goes viral

By Our Representative  Watan Ki Raah Mein, a civil society campaign of the Samvidhan Bachao Nagrik Abhiyan, has released a short video conversation on social media of an exchange of letters between a dadi and her poti discussing poverty, unemployment, corruption and women’s safety. The letters also raise the question of  suppression of our fundamental rights of speech, expression and justice. 

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

India 'not keen' on legally binding global treaty to reduce plastic production

By Rajiv Shah  Even as offering lip-service to the United Nations Environment Agency (UNEA) for the need to curb plastic production, the Government of India appears reluctant in reducing the production of plastic. A senior participant at the UNEP’s fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4), which took place in Ottawa in April last week, told a plastics pollution seminar that India, along with China and Russia, did not want any legally binding agreement for curbing plastic pollution.

No compensation to family, reluctance to file FIR: Manual scavengers' death

By Arun Khote, Sanjeev Kumar*  Recently, there have been four instances of horrifying deaths of sewer/septic tank workers in Uttar Pradesh. On 2 May, 2024, Shobran Yadav, 56, and his son Sushil Yadav, 28, died from suffocation while cleaning a sewer line in Lucknow’s Wazirganj area. In another incident on 3 May 2024, two workers Nooni Mandal, 36 and Kokan Mandal aka Tapan Mandal, 40 were killed while cleaning the septic tank in a house in Noida, Sector 26. The two workers were residents of Malda district of West Bengal and lived in the slum area of Noida Sector 9.