June 29: Rising silicosis cases in Jharkhand worries NHRC

June 29, 2012

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-06-27/ranchi/32440637_1_silicosis-nhrc-member-national-human-rights-commission

RANCHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken serious note of rising cases of silicosis in Jharkhand and asked the state government to take steps to curb the problem at the earliest.

The directive was issued by the NHRC after the matter was brought to its notice by Occupational Safety and Health Association of Jharkhand (OSHAJ), an NGO working for prevention of disease at workplace.

Secretary general of OSHAJ Samit Kumar Carr said in the past one decade thousands of workers had tested positive for silicosis in the state. Silicosis, also known as Potter’s rot, is caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust and is marked by inflammation and scarring in forms of modular lesions in the upper lobes of the lungs. It is characterized by shortness of breath, cough, fever, and cyanosis (bluish skin).

There are more than 200 stone crushers in Kolhan division of the state and more than 5,000 workers are engaged in it.

“It is surprising that at least 1,000 workers get afflicted by silicosis because the crusher owners never provide protective gear. The local health and labour department never take the matter seriously. When I brought the matter to the NHRC and submitted documents along with medical certificate, it took the matter on priority basis and issued notice to the state government and the health department,” said Carr.

He said the NHRC was serious on the matter because the state government initially tried to downplay the matter. “When I submitted the medical records of some of the silicosis patients from East Singhbhum district, the commission summoned the state chief secretary and health secretary to explain the situation. I also submitted details of a company where more than 30 workers have died of silicosis in the last few years,” Carr added.

NHRC member P C Sharma said the situation was Jharkhand is alarming and the commission had asked the state government to take necessary steps at the earliest. “We had summoned the state’s chief secretary and the health secretary and asked them to take immediate step. We expect that the state government will take up the issue seriously as it is related to the health of a large number of workers,” he added.