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Gujarat authorities 'caring little' for Morbi's 55 deadly silicosis victims

By Mahesh Makwana* 

Silicosis could have been prevented if the Factories Act was properly enforced. Kill us with the knife we offer you, do not kill us by silicosis– this is the sufferers' outcry of silicosis victims of Morbi, Gujarat, known as a top ceramic hub of India.
The Silicosis Victims Association, Morbi, presenting a memorandum to the Assistant Director, Industrial Safety and Health (DISH), Morbi, regarding non-compliance with the Factories Act, said, currently there are more than 55 silicosis patients in the town, but no one has any proof of having worked in a factory, hence, they cannot claim compensation. 
Who is responsible for this? Only the owners or even the officials who have the responsibility to enforce the law?, the momerandum asked.
For the protection of safety and health of workers, laws are made and mechanisms are put in place to monitor their compliance, and tax-paying citizens' money is used to maintain that mechanism. But the system is busy protecting the owners, it said. 
If there are laws for the protection of safety and health of workers and if they were followed properly, why would even one of the 55 patients do not have any factory-issued Identity card? Why are workers not getting the benefits they are entitled to under the social security laws?
Representatives of the Silicosis Victim Association, Morbi, expressed told the officer concerned, if the main bread earner of the household suffers from silicosis, the family can't earn livelihood, and, in that situation, if you can't give us justice, we offer you a knife, kill us.
The representatives of the aggrieved association asserted that if the Factories Act had been properly implemented, today they would not have been victims of the dreaded disease silicosis.
The association  demanded the following for compliance with the Act:
1. The authorities should provide evidence of factories  where silicosis sufferers worked previously.
2. All the workers currently working in the factories of Morbi district should be provided with ID card.
3 There are several provisions to protect the health of the workers to be followed. There is a need to measure dust level, noise and other pollutants in the workplace and take legal action to cancel the license of units whose pollution exceeds the legal limits prescribed by the law.
4. The authorities must train all workers in safety and health as per Section 111 of the Factories Act. They should disclose the statistics of those who have been trained so far.
5. The authorities should conduct medical examination of all the workers and publish the reports thereof.
6. Safety committee must be formed in all units its members must be trained.
7. Licenses of the units in which silicosis affected workers are found should be cancelled.
A request was made to take appropriate action within 30 days regarding these demands.
----
*President, Silicosis Victims Association

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