Excerpts from “Destined to Die: Status of Silicosis Patients in 3 Tribal Dominated Districts Alirajpur, Jhabua, Dhar of Madhya Pradesh”, a study by Nai Shuruwat for Silicosis Peedit Sangh and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Madhya Pradesh
Badgyar is a small village close to the Block headquarter of Kukshi, where 50 people are affected by silicosis. Out of these 50 people, 21 have died and 29 are alive.
Phataliya Bharat in one among these 50 patients. His family is badly affected due to silicosis. Phataliya went to Balasinor and Godhra for work along with his wife Kusum, son Sikdar, daughter-in-law Kanchan, and daughters Sarita and Sarika. Sikdar, Kanchan, Sarita and Sarika were all between ages 24 to 28.They all got the silicosis disease and ended up spending a lot of money on treatment. But his son Sikdar and daughter Sarita could not be saved. Phataliya and his daughter Sarita are severely impacted by the disease and bed-ridden, unable to work.Sarita is completely down and has not been able to sit up since 8 months. All responsibility of the survival of the family is on Kusum, who herself is a silicosis victims.
The family got the first installment under the Indira Awaas Scheme to build a house but nobody was in the family who could work. Thus all the amount of the scheme was spent on the treatment of her husband Phataliya and daughter Sarita. Phataliya and Sarita are still struggling with life and wife Kusum is struggling for their treatment along with the taking care of granddaughter Sanju (daughter of Sikdar).
This family has lost multiple members of working age, a severe blow to their economic situation…
In the past 10 years (2005-2015), the grave issue of people contracting silicosis due to working in quartz crushing factories in Gujarat has left hundreds of poor families in deep peril. Among the tribal districts of Alirajpur, Jhabua and Dhar, families who were marginalized to start with, migrated out of their villages in search of livelihood. At a time when the government had designed a guaranteed employment scheme like MGNREGA, due to poor implementation of this scheme on the ground, lots of families had to leave their villages to work in these factories in neighboring State of Gujarat.
Around these years, as per data available data, out-migration had reached more than 70% in these districts. Multiple members from each family ended up working in factories which had employed these people without any proper documents and provided them with no registration or identification of having had worked there. These factories broke all possible protocols of employee safety standards, exposing their employees to huge amounts of silica dust; the people started falling ill in months and contracted the incurable disease silicosis. Tribal families who were once well-settled in their villages, had to sell their land, livestock, and incurred heavy debts in order to pay for the treatment of a disease which is incurable.
- People started dying due to silicosis and there has been a steady rising death toll over the last 10 years. As per the collected data by the research team, a total of 589 people have died across the 3 districts of Alirajpur, Jhabua and Dhar.
- This study brings to light that in all these years, there have been no attempts by the Gujarat government to compensate the families of the deceased silicosis patients, despite a NHRC compensation recommendation that was issued in 2010.
- Despite formulating a Silicosis Policy dated 15.9.2011, the Government of Madhya Pradesh has not implemented the policy on the ground and has not provided rehabilitation to the silicosis affected patients. The present survey reveals that the number of patients across the 105 surveyed villages of Alirajpur, Jhabua and Dhar, who have received any government benefits under employment, housing, regular pensions or agriculture related support is miniscule:
- A minute 7% of the total affected families got work under MGNREGA in 2011, 7.6% in 2012, which dwindled down to 3.2% in 2013, 1.2% in 2014 and 0.7% in 2015
- 2% of the affected families were granted housing under the Indira Awaas Yojana, and a tiny 6% got both installments to build a house
- Few were issued the Deen Dayal Treatment card and only 4.7% had the ‘Silicosis Priority’ stamps on their cards, as recommended in the Silicosis Policy of the MP Government.
- Only 19.7% families received some kind of standard pensions (widow/old age/disability etc.) for a period of time and now only 10% receives these pensions (the rate of discontinuation is more than 49%). Nobody received the Rs. 1500 monthly pension as mentioned by the MP Government in their reply to the Supreme Court, dated March 2015
- There has been no clear direction on taking appropriate measures against the 35 listed factories where the 1721 patients worked.
This depicts a complete failure on the part of the Madhya Pradesh government to implement the MGNREGA scheme and provide employment to its people within their villages. At the same time, it is serious oversight of the Gujarat Government to allow these unregulated factories to run and continue employing people. Both States should be accountable for the continuing loss of lives of poor and marginalized tribal communities.
- The Government of Gujarat should immediately provide compensation to the families of the 247 identified deceased patients in the NHRC list. ( Annexure-3, Order of Supreme court)
- The Government of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh should immediately start the process of verifying the remaining 342 deceased patients (a total of 589 people have died so far in the 105 identified villages) and pay them compensation, amount of which should be equal to the projected earnings which the deceased would have earned through the remaining working years of his/her life
Rehabilitation: The Madhya Pradesh State Government should allocate special grants and implement rehabilitation of all silicosis victims in a time-bound fashion, as per the Silicosis Policy formulated by the government.
- The Government of MP should immediately provide medical, social and economic rehabilitation to families of 308 affected patients in the NHRC list. ( Annexure-3, Order of Supreme court)
- The Government of MP should immediately provide medical, social and economic rehabilitation to the 824 affected patients (a total of 1721 patients, out of which 1132 are alive of which 308 are in the NHRC alive list), as per the Silicosis Policy and MP Slate Pencil Karmakar Mandal
- Children and orphans of silicosis affected families should receive education support, education facilities, health and nutrition benefits till they turn 18 years of age. The family members, looking after these children, should receive a monthly child care allowance
- Women of silicosis affected families (widows and mothers) should receive a regular monthly pension along with relevant training, resources and sustained livelihood support from the government.
- Silicosis patients who are alive should receive free medical treatment, appropriate livelihood options within their villages and employment guarantee for the rest of their working lives.
- Both Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat Government should abide by the NHRC guidelines that detail out the Preventive, Remedial, Rehabilitative, and Compensation aspects of silicosis (Annexure 4)
- Madhya Pradesh government should carry out a detailed analysis of the migration situation in these districts and design and implement programs to stop out-migration.
- The Government of Gujarat should take immediate steps towards issuing investigation, taking criminal actions and possible resulting closure of the factories where these silicosis affected victims worked in unregulated and unsafe conditions, leading to loss of lives and lifelong productivity
- The Government of MP should take steps towards generating awareness among migration-heavy districts on the grave affects of working in quartz crushing and other related factories leading to occupational diseases like silicosis, silico-tuberculosis, pneumoconiosis etc.
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