NHRC seeks report on use of asbestos

TIMES NEWS NETWORK ,23rd October 2011

Jaipur: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought a status report on the use of asbestos in the state and whether any compensation package is paid to victims of asbestosis here.The report has been sought from the chief secretary within four months.

The NHRC’s orders was in the context of a complaint filed by Gopal Krishna of the Toxic Watch Alliance (TWA).In his complaint,Krishna has drawn the attention of the commission towards the death of nearly 50,000 people every year in the world due to asbestos-related cancer.

He has alleged that white asbestos is a fibrous material used for building roofs and walls and in various other forms.The complainant has sought the commission’s intervention for a ban on the use of chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos) which is hazardous for the health of people and causes various incurable diseases.Citing contradictory position of various state governments,he has alleged that while mining of asbestos has been technically banned,many states allow the import of asbestos and that too from countries which do not prefer domestic use.

The complainant has also requested for grant of a compensation package for the present and future victims of asbestosrelated diseases.
It is in this context that the NHRC has issued a notice to the chief secretary of Rajasthan along with those of other states and the secretaries of the ministries of chemicals & fertilizers,environment and forest,health and family welfare,industry,commerce and labour.

In Rajasthan,the Mine Labour Protection Campaign (MLPC) has been fighting for the rights of asbestosis victims.Though a ban on mining of asbestos was passed by the state government on July 9,1986,but it continues as the lease of individual mines are yet to expire.

There are a lot of workers who have been affected by working for a long period of time in asbestos mines here, says Rana Sengupta,managing trustee of MLPC.In 2007,the National Institute of Occupation Health (NIOH),Ahmedabad conducted a medical examination of 167 such workers out of which 93 were suspected to be afflicted with asbestosis.However,the final test results were not made public though about 20 of those 93 are now dead, Sengupta said.

Later after MLPC raised the issue,NIOH carried out a re-check on these workers but the results are once again awaited.The MLPC on its own has also conducted similar checks on about 250 workers and 50 % of them are suspected to be afflicted.Since then MLPC has been fighting with the government for a proper compensation package to these victims.