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Silicosis victims: Govt of Gujarat should take bold step to frame rehabilitation policy

Jagdish Patel, Director, People's Training and Research Centre, writes to Principal Secretary,  Ministry of Labor & Employment, Government of Gujarat to frame rehabilitation policy for silicosis victims:

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Subject: Thank you for complying with NHRC recommendation to pay Rs.3/- lakh to widow of Silicosis victim in Vasna, Khambhat
I wish to thank you for complying with the NHRC recommendation and pay Rs.3/- (Rs.1/- lakh cheque and FD for Rs.2/- lakh) in our complaint no.1067/6/3/2020.
You were kind enough to give us audience at your office in April this year.
We had represented with you to –
  • Implement Supreme Court Order in PIL 110/2006 to pay Rs.3 lakh to the families of workers who die of silicosis
  • Enforcing NHRC recommendation in 351/6/3/2010. Recommendations are wide ranging but we specifically want the Government to frame policy for rehabilitation of silicosis victims on the lines of the policy framed and implemented in the States of Rajasthan, Haryana, Jharkhan and W.Bengal.
Upon discussion you agreed to amend the Government of Gujarat resolution to pay monetary relief of Rs. 1/- to Rs.3/- lakh and some other relief sought by the delegation. We hear that the draft of the amended resolution is waiting for your nod. We highly appreciate the efforts being made by your ministry under your guidance.
We call upon you to take a bold step further to frame rehabilitation policy for silicosis victims. NHRC has been writing to the Chief Secretary consistently to report the status. Assembly elections are knocking the doors and the Election Commission may declare the dates anytime. Once the dates have been declared, code of conduct shall come into force and Government shall not be in position to declare any policy decision for the welfare of the workers.
In course of our work we have seen that large numbers of workers who should have been covered under ESI Act are not covered. They are also not getting benefits of PF Act. We believe that all the patients suffering from silicosis should be given complete free treatment at all ESI hospitals without attaching any contributory conditions or employment conditions. Many of the victims need Oxygen support at home but they can not afford the deposit amount and refilling amount required to be paid to the Oxygen supplier. In such condition Government of Gujarat can ink agreement with the supplier to provide Oxygen to the certified patients without any charge to the patients. All of them should be issued Antyodaya ration card. Many more can be done but foremost is monetary relief to be paid monthly once they are diagnosed to have silicosis.
We believe that silicosis patients are in each district in the State. Workers in several industries are exposed to fine silica dust at work. We have not been able to protect their health. Protection and prevention is more complex than paying relief. Industries may be taxed to recover the amount spent by the Government on Silicosis victims but let us not wait any more. Let Azadi Ka Amtur Mahotsav bring cheers for these unfortunate workers who contributed in achieving industrial growth and GDP we enjoy.
We look forward to your dynamic leadership. If actions are not taken immediately we are afraid, we will miss the opportunity once again.

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