Jaipur: The white marble floor in our living rooms from Makrana in Rajasthan, granite kitchen slab from Kesariya ji, ceramic tiles in bathrooms and gemstone ring in finger - all have "stains" of human blood. It may not be visible to us but there is a human cost to our proud possessions.
The Rajasthan health department has identified 34 blocks of 20 districts as silicosis-affected areas due to presence of mining and ceramic industries in the state. While working in mines, crystal-like silica enters the lungs and causes silicosis, an incurable respiratory disease.
Thousands of mine workers die before reaching the age of 40. There are over 5,300 certified silicosis patients in Rajasthan. The state also accounts for the maximum of 449 silicosis deaths in the country.
A study by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) says that 56 per cent of mine workers in the state are afflicted with silicosis.
According to experts, the control and management of silica dust is not difficult. Besides wet drilling, use of safety equipment and regular health check-ups can change the scenario for the better.
But greedy mine owners are least bothered to spend even on basic safety equipments like masks, goggles, caps and gloves. They hardly care for wet drilling which can help reduce the dust. There is no system of health check up. There is no provision for health insurance and provident fund.
Rana Sengupta of Mine Labour Protection Campaign (MLPC). an organisation that has set up a bank providing oxygen concentrator to seriously-ill silicosis patients, said that the state government lacks the will to ensure benefits to mineworkers. It has not able to ensure implementation of rules for mining workers’ safety and welfare, he alleged.
Even a Supreme Court ruling and orders of the state human rights commission and Lokayukta have failed to make the government to ensure enforcement of pro-worker rules in mines.
“The Raje government had claimed to set up Mine and Mineral Development Fund for development in mining affected areas and people suffering of silicosis. But, the fund was used for other headss,” alleged state Congress president Sachin Pilot.
Officials claimed that since 2013, the state government has been offering Rs 1 lakh compensation to each person diagnosed with silicosis and Rs 3 lakh to the kin of a silicosis patient in case of death.