The National Human Rights Commission has come down heavily on the Jharkhand government, regarding the 22 unreported silicosis deaths in the state. The question remains, why the affected families were not recommended for monetary compensation. Silicosis is the most common occupational lung disease. According to the International Labour Organisation, it is an incurable lung disease caused by inhalation of free crystalline silica. The NHRC noticed that silicosis being a preventable condition was not paid enough attention to, by the enforcement agencies. This lackadaisical approach has resulted in the death of a number of people. The NHRC has presented a show cause notice to the CS of Delhi for failing to protect 21 workers.
The commission has further asked the state government to submit a report on the action taken to rehabilitate and provide medical treatment to workers who are suffering from silicosis.
The NHRC’s has acted on a complaint by the General Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health Association, Jharkhand. The association noticed that 32 silicosis related deaths have been recorded since 2002, 22 of which have been confirmed to have occurred in the same dust-generating unit in Musabani block of East Singhbhum district. An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 stone crushers, 45-50 ramming mass units, 192 iron ore crushers, 50 sponge iron units are housed in Jharkhand.
Even with strong evidence to the contrary the CS, Jharkhand, claimed that there are no certifying surgeons available in Jharkhand for the diagnosis of silicosis. The state government has continued to maintain that it does not have facilities to prove the deaths of the 22 workers between 2002 to 2011 were due to silicosis
The CS maintains that he is aware of the show cause notice but has not reviewed it yet. With the assurance of providing ‘something’ for the welfare of the workers and their families, he maintains that he is not aware of the monetary compensation.