Silicosis affected hundreds in Jharkhand

Jharkhand News Stories

Whenever she coughs Sukri Devi pukes blood.Devi is no strange case.Her 55 year old mother Arti Manjhi is so weak that she can not even caugh.She was bed ridden ince past more than six months.

Welcome to Hatia in Ranchi district to witness heart rending stories of workers at the stone crushers.All of them were suffering from a deadly disease-silicosis.While they ere yet to be cured,more than 22 men and women in Musaboni block near Jamshedpur had died during the past two years since January 21,2011 due to silicosis.

This is not surprising in Jharkhand,a repository of over 40 percent of total mineral reserve of India,where at least 15000 mines were operational.All these ines,especially the stone crushers were,working without following any dust control measures.

Since silicosis is caused due to inhaling particles of silica released from stone and coal,wokers enaged in crushing these minerals were vulnerable to this decease.”“We worked in the stone-crushing unit as we don’t have any other option for our livelihood. Now, after 3 years of stone-crushing, I am unable to lift things, work, walk, run or perform any of my regular activities. A thick layer of dust covers the whole village due to mining and stone-crushing. As the villagers are affected, the factory owner has hired migrant workers to work in the stone-crushing factory,”cribbed Devi.

 stone crushing worker
Silicosis affected hundreds in Jharkhand

Each household of Hatia has similar tales to tell.“About 35 cases have been reported in Musabani village. Silicosis can be caused by a minimum of seven microns of silica dust. It causes fibrosis and disfiguring of lungs with non-functional fibrous tissue, eventually becoming Pulmonary Massive Fibrosis (PMF). This stage is reached after considerable exposure,” said Dr. DR Singh , a chest specialist.

As it is most doctors in this belt lack knowledge and expertise to treat patients of silicosis and more often than not fail to diagnose the patients correctly.”This has aggravated the situation. The workers of this unit are never registered with Employee State Insurance (ESI), and the government hospitals in Jharkhand do not have designated centres to diagnosis silicosis”,said Sudershan Oraon,a social activist.

According to a WHO report, the average life span of those working in stone-crushing mines is 33 years. It has been also reported that 56 per cent of the mine workers are affected with silicosis.

Asked about the medical facility,Devi said: “Doctor sahib give us medicines for tuberculosis though we are suffering from respiratory problems. I was prescribed three courses of tuberculosis medicines but was never treated for the disease I am suffering from. This goes on for everyone who suffers from silicosis in Musabani.”

When the Jharkhand conducted a survey it found that there was no medicare readily available to the patients in Hatia or Musaboni.None of the government doctors had visited the affectded villages.sadly,no report is available at the worksite.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has summoned the Jharkhand government to explain the reason for the delay in providing compensation and rehabilitation to the silicosis victims.

The NHRC also enquired why the factory had a no-objection certification from the government though it violated the Industry Regulation Act.”We are going to take note of the problem and try to address it”,said Sudhir Kumar,Deputy Secretary of the state mines department.

Josheph Murmu

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