Skip to main content

No silicosis-TB anymore? Doubting Gujarat govt claim, NGO seeks scientific study

Counterview Desk 

In a representation, Jagdish Patel, director, Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), a Gujarat-based health rights group, has made a plea to the director-general, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on the need for systematic surveillance study on the prevalence of tuberculosis and silicosis among agate polishers in Khambhat, Gujarat.
Doubting the Government of Gujarat claims that since wet method is adopted for agate polishing by Khambhat units, the problems related with the prevalence of TB and silicosis have been resolved, he says, lately,no scientific study has been carried out to know the status of the problem and results of the efforts to reduce silica dust at work and its impact.
Stating that it is now 18 long years that a systematic study was done on the issue, he insists, the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) be directed to take up a study again that can guide one to plan out strategies not only to end TB and silicosis but also to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.8. Such a study alone would “demonstrate progress toward eliminating both silico-tuberculosis as well as silicosis and TB individually”, he adds.

Text:

PTRC is a voluntary organization established in 1992 to work on Occupational Health and safety. It has relentlessly worked to generate awareness of Occupational diseases, locate hot spots, help generate scientific data on occupational diseases and help victims of the occupational diseases receive social justice.
Agate items are popular and the country is so proud of this craft that foreign dignitaries are gifted agate items from Khambhat. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted agate bowls to President Putin of Russia.
Polishing agate and other stones to make ornaments and other show case items is an old craft that has flourished in Khambhat. The craft has received Geographical Indication tag in the year 2008. As part of census of India 1961 “Agate Industry of Cambay” was published to document the craft [Volume V-part VII-A (1)]. In this report there are several case studies which refer to several deaths in a craftsman family due to Tuberculosis (TB).
Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow, took up a study (date not mentioned but believed to be in 1983 or so) and published report “Respiratory morbidity in Agate workers: A Case Study in Khambhat, Gujarat, India”. In this study, the prevalence of all chronic lung diseases in agate workers and controls was 63.4 and 35.6% respectively, maximum morbidity in the former being in 21-30 years age group. The prevalence of pneumoconiosis and pulmonary TB, was 18.4%, 15.5% respectively in agate workers. Amongst all lung diseases percentage of pneumoconiosis was 30.8% in grinders and 22.2% in chippers. Prevalence of pneumoconiosis and TB was 14.3% in children.
In 1987 the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) carried out epidemiological study of agate workers. Silicosis prevalence for all agate workers was 29% and the prevalence among grinders was 38%. Progressive Massive Fibrosis (PMF) was observed among 8% of the workers and the prevalence of TB was 30%.
In 1993 NIOH did a follow-up study of 150 randomly selected subjects from the 1987 study. Among the 91 subjects who were available in 1993 for follow-up, silicosis prevalence was 41% and the prevalence among the grinders was 64% and non-grinders at 23%.
NIOH carried out a third study during 1999-2004. It was an environmental and medical survey. Prevalence of silicosis among all agate workers was 29-36%, prevalence of TB was 27-50% and prevalence of SilicoTB was 15-26%. Prevalence of silicosis among non-workers was found to be 6-13%, TB 20-23% and SilicoTB 2-8%. Children and women working near the agate units were suffering from silicosis and silicoTB.
A 2007 study of 123 suspect cases of silicosis among agate workers reporting to a weekly clinic set up the NGO in collaboration Medical College, Karamsad found that 70% of them had silicosis confirmed by chest X-ray. Analysis showed that every extra year of exposure the odds of getting silicosis increased by about 12%.
The weekly clinic set up by PTRC examined over 10 years over 1,200 exposed persons during 2007 to 2017 and of them 415 were found to be suffering from silicosis/silicoTB.
Several efforts were done by NIOH and NGOs and the industry to reduce silica levels at work in last decade. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) published recommendations on preventive, remedial, rehabilitative and compensation aspect of silicosis (in 2011) and presented a comprehensive report to Parliament.
The Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) has recognised silicosis as risk factor for TB. The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Employment has developed a framework to address TB and related co-morbidities in the world of work in India in April 2019 which lays down standards for employers/employees and guides supervisors in ensuring TB prevention and care at workplace settings.
There is clear link between TB and silica exposure. Universal screening for TB in this community on a regular basis has not been done by anyone.
The agate industry has claimed that all the agate processing units have adopted wet method. The Government of Gujarat claims that since wet method is adopted, the problem has been resolved. No scientific study has been carried out to know the status of the problem and results of the efforts to reduce silica dust at work and its impact.
Reduced exposure to silica in the workplace has been shown to reduce TB incidence. Silica exposure can increase the risk of TB even in absence of silicosis.
It will be prudent to take up a silicosis and TB prevalence study in Khambhat through NIOH in collaboration with RNTCP to assess the current situation and help plan for further improvement.
It is now 18 long years that have passed after the last NIOH study. We appeal you to direct NIOH to take up a study again now which can guide us to plan our strategies not only to end TB but also to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.8. 
A new study is needed not only to assess the effectiveness of the prevention intervention efforts over the past 10 or 18 years, but also to re-establish an updated current prevalence measure that can be used as a reference for surveillance and prevention interventions going forward for the next 5-10 years that can demonstrate progress toward eliminating both silico-tuberculosis as well as silicosis and TB individually.
We look forward hearing from you soon.

Comments

TRENDING

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.

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.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen