After waiting for 10 long years of a complaint filed by a health rights organization, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the district collector, Bharuch, Gujarat, to take up the matter of paying compensation to the next of kin (NoK) of four confirmed cases of deaths due to the fatal occupational disease silicosis with the labour department, Rajasthan government.
Filed by Jagdish Patel of the People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, on May 27, 2010, the complaint to NHRC was regarding the four workers who had died between 2007 and 2009: Raju Zaverbhai Patel, 37 (date of death February 9, 2007), Amarsing Dabhaibhai Gohil (62; May 9, 2009), Rajubhai Maganbhai Rathod (32; November 25, 2009) and Yusuf Alimohammad Nur (43; February 10, 2009).
In a detailed complaint, Patel said that the four workers, belonging to the Jambusar taluka, were employed in agate polishing units in Jaipur, where exposure to lethal silica is “very high”. On being sick, they returned to their native village and died a painful death, without larger society taking note of it.
Patel said, “During our field work, we visited the families of the workers, talked to them at length to collect the occupational history and treatment papers including x-rays. We sent these x-rays and occupational history to medical experts separately to seek their opinion.”
Following the PTRC complaint, the process of paying compensation turned into a bureaucratic quagmire, with the district collector, Bharuch, asking NoK of the four deceased persons to visit the office of the Industrial Safety and Health, Bharuch, to report about their case. NoK faced several hurdles, included submission of claim under the Workmen’s Compensation Act in Jaipur, and inability to find out the exact name and address of the employers.
“After a long silence”, said Patel, “NHRC considered the matter on January 27, 2020. It decided to direct the Bharuch district collector to take up the matter with the Labour Authorities of Jaipur, Rajasthan, for payment of appropriate monetary compensation to NoK of the deceased persons. However, the NHRC recommendation does not specify the amount to be paid.”
Pointing out that the NHRC recommendation is “disappointing”, Patel added, the only ray of hope now is the pneumoconiosis policy, passed by the Rajasthan government, and unveiled on October 2, 2019.