By Ashok Shrimali*

Workers in Panna district of Madhya Pradesh are up in arms against the state government indifference towards silicosis, the deadly disease rampant in sandstone mining. Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India (OEHNI) coordinator Mohit Gupta in a statement has said this has happened because workers in these mines are suffering from silicosis for long, “yet, the owners have failed to provide any facilities or protective equipments to them, as is common in the country.” Worse, “they have not even been issued any ID cards, and they have no knowledge either about the name of the owner or the mine for which they are working for.”
An OEHNI medical camp for these workers in 2011 found that 39 out of 45 workers who came for diagnosis suffered from silicosis. “This list of workers was given to the district administration for remedial action, but nothing happened. A case was also filed against the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for these workers. In 2012, again, the diagnosed 84 workers as suffering from silicosis. Of these, six victims have so far died, and they have received no compensation of any kind. This has happened despite the fact that three of them were confirmed by the government doctors also as silicosis victims”, Gupta said.
All this took shape against the backdrop of the fact that the NHRC in its order dated October 15, 2012, asked the Madhya Pradesh government’s health secretary to work out ways to provide compensation to the victims, even as start treating those who suffer from silicosis. The NHRC acted on the on the basis of a complaint, which said that 82 patients of silicosis have been identified in the tribal areas of Panna District. The complaint further said, there were around 75,000 tribals working in the stone quarries in the area. Read more
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