JAIPUR: The United Nations (UN) Human Rights report – 2012 gives an account of the unhealthy and exploitative conditions of mine workers in the state. Published by the working group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR) for India’s review at UN suggests that minimal wages, poor working conditions and lack of training are rampant in the mining sector in the state.
In its study WGHR found that more than 95% of mining activities in the state fall in the domain of unorganized sector. Out of the total miners almost 37% are women and most of them are dalits or tribals. The most concerning revelation is about the health status of the mineworkers.
“Silicosis and tuberculosis are two respiratory diseases commonly found among mineworkers and they are both potentially life-threatening,” noted the report. It further says, “In the stone mines of Western Rajasthan that provide essential support to livelihood generation, the co-existence of two diseases, known as silico-tuberculosis, is prevalent”.
More than half of the workers affected with these diseases belong to scheduled castes. The condition of women miners, the report clearly mentions, is even worse as they are most often underpaid, malnourished, exploited and harassed physically. The factors that compel women to take up mining jobs are mainly poverty and the need for additional household income.
The study has exposed the government’s tall promises and it states that lack of government monitoring and legal provisions perpetuate such conditions.
“Time and again it has been proved that mine workers in the state are in the grip of diseases like silicosis and asbestosis. But still there are no provisions for compensating them. Mining safety and its operation all are state subjects but labourers working there is a central subject. So there are hardly any efforts for the betterment of the lives of these workers,” said Rana Sengupta of Mine Labour Protection Campaign.
When the state government grants permission for mining, the operator as per law is required to submit form 1 under Mining Act 1952 to the ministry of labour. This registration form of mineworkers makes the lessee liable for monthly assessment of health and safety standards.
“State government has failed to evolve a mechanism where it can check whether the lessee has submitted the form to the labour ministry or not,” said Sengupta. “In its absence major issues of health and safety go unnoticed,” he added.
Facing the heat from mineworkers and NGOs, the state government called a high-level inter-departmental meeting on January 11. The meeting was attended by the victims who described the discrimination they face in their rehabilitation. To evolve the system and to ensure that existing rules are complied with, chief secretary has convened another meeting on January 28.