Each silicosis victim to get 2 lakh more

TIMES NEWS NETWORK ; 7th June, 2011, TOI, Jaipur edition

Jaipur: Ahead of a proposed meeting summoned by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of five states, including Rajasthan, for reviewing actions taken on its suggestion, chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Monday agreed to another Rs 2 lakh per victim for silicosis in Jodhpur. These next of kin of such victims have already been paid Rs 1 lakh in cash as an interim-relief.
According to a CMO statement, the next of kin of 21 silicosis victims will be given Rs 2 lakh each. This sum would be deposited in their name in particular banks so that the they are able to use the interest to meet daily expenses.
“Considering the poverty of these people, the chief minister has on humanitarian grounds agreed to give another Rs 2 lakh per person totalling Rs 42 lakh from the chief minister’s relief fund,” the statement reads.
Though the development has cheered activists fighting for the cause of such silicosis victims, they have refused to buy claims that Gehlot made the grant merely on humanitarian ground. They claim that the state’s action is driven by its answerability on the proposed NHRC meeting.
The NHRC is suppose to meet representatives of five states on June 10 as a follow-up to the national conference on silicosis in New Delhi in March. Towards this end, with a bid to review the action taken on the commissions recommendations another meeting was summoned. The states taking part in the meeting are Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.
“The NHRC in a similar case ordered the Gujarat government to pay Rs 3 lakh to the next of kin of silicosis victims. The same orders also applies here. And the NHRC orders are not based on a humanitarian grounds, rather it specifies that it is due to a violation of human rights,” says Rana Sengupta, managing trustee of the Mine Labour Protection Campaign (MLPC), which has been fighting for the cause of silicosis patients.
Since most labourers working in such mines do not have any payslip or PF receipts or even an attendance register, they were unable to prove their employment and hence were not able to claim compensation under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
“But the NHRC had maintained even in such cases, the onus falls on the state government for having failed to protect the rights of the workers,” Sengupta added.
The kin of silicosis patients and many of those afflicted with the deadly diseases had recently been on a 21-day dharna outside the Jodhpur collectorate demanding compensation. Gehlot on a visit to the district had agreed to Rs 1 lakh as interim relief for o these labourers.
However, that failed to please the labourers and they stuck to their demand for compensation and not mere interim relief.