According to a recent research, more than 200,000 miners in Rajasthan suffer from a dangerous lung disease, silicosis, which is caused by the inhalation of dust containing crystalline silica.
There are two million miners in Rajasthan, according to figures by the National Commission on Labour. Of these, 500,000 miners work in mines containing silica dust and around 41 percent of them suffer from silicosis, claims an independent research report.
Silica particles cause damage to the lung tissue, which impairs the performance of the lungs to varying degrees. The symptoms of silicosis include coughing, breathlessness, weakness and difficulty to exercise. The condition may also make the sufferer prone to lung infections such as pneumonia.
Independent research by a local NGO called Health, Environment and Development Consortium (HEDCON) showed that 86 percent of those certified with silicosis were over the age of 40. Silicosis is the silent killer of over 100,000 lives in Rajasthan.
Though the existence of this occupational disease is common knowledge, the government of Rajasthan continues to flout the rights of the miners by failing to ensure that they are protected from the cause of silicosis and those who contract silicosis receive compensation.
Looking at the gravity of the situation, HEDCON has now appealed to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to intervene in the matter.
The NGO has urged the president to constitute an independent commission for the examination and identification of miners with silicosis and to ensure that victims of silicosis receive food and treatment.
The organisation has appealed to the president, in a letter, that a sum of Rs.50 million be allocated from the president's fund for welfare and relief to affected miners in Jodhpur, According to them, this would ensure that effective steps are taken by the departments concerned to secure the miners' rights with respect to their safety and compensation.