Eighty-two new cases of silicosis have been identified in Panna in a recent survey conducted by Environics Trust (Occupation Health and Safety Centre) in October.
According to reports, about a dozen of people are in serious condition and two have been admitted in the hospital. The two tribal labourers, whose condition is said to be critical, are in Balkrishna and Kesu.
The survey was conducted by the Holland-based specialist, Dr M Murlidhar. A total of 224 labourers working in different mines of the district were examined by a team led by Murlidhar, in which 82 were found to be affected by the dreaded silicosis.
Last year, the team had conducted the survey in September and had identified 39 sufferers, out which four have died till now.
Hindustan Times had carried a story on February 18 and reported the death of a labourer, Kamta Prasad (54), a tribal, who was suffering from silicosis for the last one year. He was one of the 39 sufferers in the list prepared by Dr M Murlidhar, who examined 43 tribal labourers in September 2011.
Kamta worked in the sandstone mine with occupational exposure history of 35 years. He had silicosis with a permanent disability of 50% as per the clinical examination, occupational history and radiology. Prior to that Shahabuddin, a resident of Panna town, died of Silicosis. There are 122 listed stone mines in the district and nearly 75,000 tribal people works as labourers in these mines.
The NHRC took congnisance of the HT story and sent a team to know more about the details of this disease in Panna. The NHRC also issued notices to the collector, chief medical and health officer (CMHO) and other higher officials. Yusuf Beg, the activist who raised the issue of Panna, said, "The team of NHRC had done nothing and identified only 17 patients among the list given by us. They put a seal on their BPL card and assured for medical help." He further said that most of the remaining affected persons including 82 identified this year, are on the verge of death and government has not taken any appropriate steps to contain the disease in the district.
Srikant Dubey MLA Panna, who had raised the silicosis issue in legislative assembly in the monsoon session this year said, "Nothing has been done to save the patients in the district. Everything is on papers only. I will raise the issue again in winter session."
"About 75,000 tribals of the district are working in legal and illegal stone mines and if examined, I can challenge that more than 70% would be found affected with the disease but no one paying any head to them," Yusuf said.