Three non-government organisations working for the cause of silicosis-affected people have welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision asking the Gujarat government to pay Rs 3 lakh compensation each to victims and their families in Madhya Pradesh.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday passed an order asking the Gujarat government to pay the compensation to 238 deceased workers within a month and the Madhya Pradesh government to rehabilitate another 304 ailing patients.
The silicosis-affected families have been waiting for more than 10 years for some action from the governments, said Dinesh Rai Singh, Mohan Singh and Kuwar Singh from Silicosis Peedit Sangh (Alirajpur and Jhabua based NGO), Shamarukh Dhara and Rakesh Chandore from Nai Shuruwat (Indore-based NGO) and Amulya Nidhi and SR Azad from Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (Bhopal based NGO) in a joint statement.
They said despite a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) order in 2010 asking the government to compensate the kin of the deceased workers, the Gujarat government had turned a blind eye to the matter. Hundreds of migrant workers contracted the incurable disease silicosis due to working in factories located in Godhra and Balasinor.
They said the migrant workers from tribal villages of Alirajpur, Jhabua and Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh went to work in quartz crushing factories in Gujarat, and due to pathetic safety standards in these factories, were exposed to very high amount of silica powder and fell ill within months.
They NGO members pointed out that the death toll had been rising in the past years and according to their surveys and field work, the number of deaths had crossed 500.
“The National Rural employment guarantee act (NREGA) is not being implemented on the ground in these villages of Alirajpur, Jhabua and Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. This has pushed the poor families to migrate to work in silica factories in bordering Gujarat. These factories operate in completely unregulated conditions and workers contracted silicosis by inhaling silica dust leading to their deaths,” they said.