A large percentage of workers in the Agate industry workers in Khambat are suffering from silicosis and want the government to give them medical assistance.
The dust generated while grinding and polishing the mineral gets into the lungs of workers.
Silicosis is a respiratory disorder caused by prolonged inhalation of crystalline silica dust and causes inflammation and nodular lesions in the lungs. It can even result in death.
More and more workers have been falling sick and are not able to afford the treatment.
'My health has deteriorated for the last three-four years. During the last one year, I have become so weak that I can't travel to the market nearby. I am not even able to go to the bathroom. Many others have died due to the disease,' said Ayub, one of the workers.
Workers say that both the government and the businessmen have earned huge profits out of the agate industry, but have not taken any measures to ensure the treatment of the workers suffering from silicosis.
The workers allege that the camps organised by the government have been a half-hearted attempt and have not been effective.
'Although, the government has organised camps and assured the supply of medicines, the workers haven't got medicines on time. The government's promises to help the workers has not been translated in real terms,' said Harish Bhai, President, AKIK stone industry, Khambat.
Several commissions have been set up by the authorities to look into the problem, but no effective steps have been taken to provide relief to the workers.
Dr. Lomesh Thakur, a doctor treating workers, says: " I have been working here from last three years and being a native, I am aware of this problem in the area since lot of people have died due to the disease,' said Dr. Thakur.
The agate industry, a household industry in Khambat and its surrounding villages, provides employment to a large number of people.
The various processes of mining, drying, frying, grinding and polishing of agate stones that are then converted into beads by heating, chipping, grinding, drilling, and polishing for use in jewellery and other decorative items, releases huge amounts of dust.