Govt plans to end discrimination at work against those battling tuberculosis
The government has circulated a detailed policy framework to end discrimination in workplaces against employees suffering from tuberculosis (TB) and TB-related co-morbidities, including human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV), to all ministries/departments with the aim of ending its spread by 2025.
The policy will be gradually extended to all workplaces, public as well as private, said government officials with direct knowledge of the matter who did not wish to be named.
According to the policy, certain identified workplaces could have increased risk of TB such as oil and gas industry, plantation sector, mining ventures, prisons, health centres and business ventures with large migrant labourers, officials said. Beedi-making industry, brick kilns, stone crushing industry, jute and cotton textile units and transport industry are also vulnerable sectors. According to the policy, the employer should take all measures for risk reduction and management of TB, including proper ventilation at workplaces and less cramped workplace settings. The policy expects employers to rearrange working time for affected workers and provide them rest breaks, including time off for medical care and flexible sick leave. The government has taken a cue from Bangladesh, where a similar programme was successfully implemented in the garment sector, the officials said.
The policy recognises that most workers spend most of their waking hours at their places of work and a non-discriminatory environment enables the uptake of screening and treatment by employees. India has the world’s highest number of TB cases with an estimated 2.7 million people contracting the disease and 0.42 million dying every year.
“This workplace policy framework provides an outline to reduce the spread of TB and manage its impact in the world of work in India. It calls for a pledge to act by all ministries and industries, sectors and corporates,” labour secretary Heeralal Samariya wrote in a letter to administrative heads of all government departments, officials said quoting him. The policy will cover all workers employed under all arrangements, and all workplaces covering formal as well as informal workers.
The policy provides for facilitating an enabling environment to prevent new infections, ensure early detection, access to free treatment and treatment adherence towards TB and its co-morbidities, including HIV.
India accounts for 2.74 million of the 10 million new TB cases globally, according to the World Health Organization Global TB report, 2018. It is a signatory to the WHO’s “End TB Strategy” that calls for a world free of the disease, with measurable aims of a 50% and 75% reduction in incidence and deaths, respectively by 2025, and corresponding reduction of 90% and 95% by 2035.
According to the policy framework, a workplace having 20,000 workers could be considered for establishing a DOTS programme in collaboration with National Tuberculosis Programme , officials said. It will also help create an enabling environment for employees to seek care and support in a stigma-free environment.