The community that MLPC works for and with

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Women are the most exploited, without health care benefits such as maternity leave; they often return to work a day after childbirth for fear of lost wages. In Rajasthan, the working life of a rural female worker is 24.6 years. The work participation rate (WPR) peaks in the 25-29 years age group. High levels of WPR are recorded among currently married females, illiterate females, scheduled castes (dalit) or scheduled tribes (indigenous people). (Rajasthan Development Report; Planning Commission; 2006) According to Anti-Slavery International, approximately 1 million children do extremely dangerous work in India’s stone quarries. The low wages of parents (a daily average of Rs 40 to 50) (US90¢ to US$1.12) is the primary reason for child labour. When debts exceed the parents’ repaying capacity they tend to have their children work in order to supplement the family income or borrow money against their children from contractors, turning them into bonded labour. Moreover, in the absence of any social security measures or worker records, if a labourer dies, the entire burden of survival falls on his or her children.

Long exposure to dust particles easily reduces a worker’s life expectancy by ten years, and occupational diseases like silicosis and tuberculosis (TB) are common among the labourers. They are then often diagnosed as victims of TB but since TB is not an occupational disease, they are invariably denied compensation by their employers. Silicosis is a respiratory disease contracted through the inhalation of silica particles commonly found in sandstone quarries. Silicosis leads to a dysfunction of the respiratory system causing workers to age faster and to eventually lose the capacity to work,and premature death. Due to the prevalence of silicosis in sandstone mining, the average age of death ranges from 40-50.

In addition to silicosis, a large number of mine workers throughout Rajasthan are victims of asbestosis. Similar to silicosis, asbestosis is contracted by mine workers through the inhalation of small, fibrous asbestos particles. Once inhaled, these fibers become lodged in the lungs and eventually make their way into the bloodstream. This also leads to pulmonary fibrosis and premature death. The mining of asbestos in Rajasthan dates back to 1960. However, due to the obvious health risks presented by the extraction of asbestos and the soaring number of asbestosis victims, the mining of asbestos was made illegal in Rajasthan in 1986 with all asbestos mines closed by 2005. Since then MLPC has fought and succeeded to keep the ban on asbestos mining in Rajasthan in place despite efforts from various stakeholders in the government and mining industry to remove the ban.

The massive unscientific mining has in the process eroded soil, caused extensive water loss, degraded forests, pastures and biodiversity in the entire state. It leaves behind a tale of destroyed ecology, biodiversity, land degradation, polluted grazing lands, farms and water catchments. Village economies are downgraded and more people are forced out of their traditional occupation, many of whom had to migrate for a livelihood. The deracinated people, having no other alternative, are forced to take up to mining.

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