Silicosis victims from Madhya Pradesh met Gujarat governor Dr. Kamla Beniwal on Tuesday and submitted a memorandum to her regarding the “insensitive and indifferent attitude” of the Gujarat government to their plight.
Silicosis, the killer scourge, affects a substantial population of migrant labourers from Madhya Pradesh's Jhabua, Alirajpur, Badwani and Dhar districts who cross the border to work in quartz-crushing factories in Godhra and Balasinore in Gujarat.
In 2010, the National Human Rights Commission took cognizance of the death of 238 such labourers and directed the Gujarat government to provide compensation of Rs. 3 lakh to the families of the diseased. The NHRC also directed the Gujarat government to rehabilitate 304 silicosis-affected labourers.
However, the Gujarat government has not abided by the NHRC directives till date and has maintained that the labourers are liable to be compensated either under the Employee State Insurance Scheme under the ESI act or under the Workmen's Compensation Act.
However, none of the affected has received compensation under either law because of lack of “evidence” (for instance the ESI card or a factory issued identity card) of having worked in a silicosis-causing hazardous industry.
The delegation of victims was led by the Silicosis Peedit Sangh (Silicosis Victims' Union) and NGO Shilpi Kendra.
“The governor took the matter seriously and assured the victims of quick action on her part,” Amulya Nidhi of Shilpi Kendra , one of the few organizations working with silicosis victims in the region, told The Hindu.
Khumsingh, a victim from Dhyana village of Alirajpur, told the Governor that his three sisters had succumbed to silicosis and he had been forced to sell his cattle and even his farm for treatment.
According to estimates provided by organizations working in the region, over 1,100 labourers from 71 villages of Dhar, Jhabua and Alirajpur are suffering from the disease which has no known cure.