JAMSHEDPUR: With over 44 silicosis deaths in the last five years and continuous rise in the number of affected patients, the situation has turned rather grim in Musabani block of the East Singhbhum district.

Many believe that the indifferent attitude of the government is primarily responsible for the unchecked growth of silicosis patients in the area. “Had the government been serious about the matter, they would have implemented the state action plan for prevention and mitigation of silicosis,” said Samit Kumar Carr, general secretary of the Occupational Safety and Health Association of Jharkhand (OSHAJ).

The death of 55-year-old Salai Hansda of Tetabadia village in Musabani early this week apparently prompted the OSHAJ activist to up his ante against the state government. Referring to a telephonic conversation with a top official in the labour department over the death of Hansda, Karr said, “He called me up to discuss the issue of silicosis-affected workers not responding to the medical investigation process. I retorted by saying that people have become non-responsive because of the fake investigation process of the department.”

Proposing to set up an independent committee of experts to investigate the matter, OSHAJ demanded that the government declared compensation packages for people, who were diagnosed with the medical condition in 2005 and subsequently in 2012.

Residents of Kendadih, Tiringa and Tetabadia, among dozen-odd villages of the block, have alleged that two privately run silica factories are largely responsible for the spread of silica dust in the area.

“We will take up the matter before the members of the National Human Rights Organization (NHRC) during the regional review meeting of five eastern states in the city in July,” said the villagers on Friday. NHRC, on behalf of the poor villagers, has intervened into the matter and asked the state government to set its record straight as far as government’s effort to curb silicosis in the state is concerned.

When approached, an official in the state labour department informed that fresh medical check-up of silica-affected patients was underway at Musabani.

Courtesy: The Times of India