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India: States not serious in dealing with silicosis

Graphic: Indian men working

The Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India says state governments have not been serious enough in dealing with silicosis.

The Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC), Justice Shri K.G. Balakrishnan, says that the state governments have not been serious enough in dealing with silicosis, an incurable but preventable disease of the lungs caused by inhaling silica in dust.

Silicosis is prevalent in almost all states though they did not maintain reliable data on the exact number of affected persons. He said that the callous attitude of state governments is a point of concern for the NHRC.

Justice Balakrishnan expressed these views while inaugurating a day-long National Conference on Silicosis organized by the NHRC at India International Centre in New Delhi.

He said that the occupational hazards of silicosis are preventable if the working conditions are properly regulated and proper warning and protective equipment is used. However, employers are not putting them to practice. He said that there should be a separate law to ensure implementation of preventive measures to protect workers from silicosis.

Justice Balakrishnan said that hundreds of thousands of workers might have developed silicosis while working in quarries, stone crushing units, mines, glass cutting factories, sand blasting, construction, gem cutting industries or ceramic industries, but the Government has not conducted any survey to determine an accurate authentic number of the victims of silicosis.

It is therefore difficult for the Commission to pursue the issue of compensation to individuals, as per the mandate given to it by the Supreme Court of India.

Justice Balakrishnan said that it was of utmost importance for the states to develop the capacity, especially in healthcare, to identify the patients of silicosis for remedial, relief and rehabilitative measures.

Underscoring the problems of migrant workers, he said that they were the most vulnerable to this disease and suffer the most when they catch this disease, as nobody would know about their whereabouts, leaving their families and dependents distraught.

NHRC members and senior officers, representatives of central and state governments, union territory administrations, national commissions, state human rights commissions, health experts and scientists, and representatives of NGOs working in the field of silicosis attended the NHRC's National Conference.

Date: 25 July 2014

Source: National Human Rights Commission of India

Image credits

  1. Indian men working - The National Labor Committee, Flickr Creative Commons