At least 571 people have died of silicosis in western Madhya Pradesh until January this year, a recent survey has found.
The study, which was first conducted by Silipi Kendra in 2011 and updated in January this year, found that 1,701 people in 102 villages of 14 blocks of Jhabua, Alirajpur and Dhar are suffering from silicosis- a deadly disease that leads to slow degradation of lung tissues following long exposure to silica dust.
In 2009, the Supreme Court directed the Gujarat government to pay compensation of Rs 3 lakh to the next of kin of 238 people who died due to silicosis and in November 2010, the National Human Rights Commission asked the Madhya Pradesh government to rehabilitate 304 silicosis-affected people in the state. The state government challenged the directive and the matter is still pending in the court.
“Even after the Supreme Court order and NHRC recommendation, the state government is insensitive and have not compensated people who lost their kin to silicosis,” said Amulya Nidhi of Swasthy Adhikar Manch, a network of healthcare organisations in Madhya Pradesh.
Nidhi, who also works with Silicosis Peedit Sangh said work at the quartz crushing factories requires heavy physical labour and deep breathing fills the lungs of workers with dust particles and they develop symptoms like coughing, stomach pain, chest pain, weight loss and shortness of breath.
He further said that hundreds of tribes people and impoverished farmers from the three districts migrate to Gujarat to work in quartz factories.
“People are still migrating and working in unregulated factories in Gujarat and the state government has not rehabilitated more than 1,200 victims in the three districts,” he said.
Sanjay Dubey, Indore divisional commissioner said, “The matter is in court and we are making all attempts to contain silicosis in the region. Families affected by the disease are being provided benefits under different developmental schemes.”