Despite deadly silicosis, Gujarat ceramics hub “escapes” health insurance and minimum wage
In the course of its work, the study says, the PTRC has encountered “workers who contracted silicosis and are being kicked out of paid employment due to illness. Shortness of breath and other complaints no longer allow them to work and they are forced to retire prematurely. In such a situation, there is no one to bear the cost of their treatment or compensate them for the damage to their lungs.
The study notes that “most workers in Thangarh are paid per piece and not per day and many employers do not consider workers to be their employees because they are employed by a contractor, who may not have received license under the Contract of Employment (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 “. Workers can take as much time off as they want at their own expense. Officially, no weekly leave is granted. Some workers have informed the researcher that they employ an assistant and that the assistant is paid by them and not by the owner, so this is a complex situation.
Noting that the ESI law is applicable to the employee from day one, the study, providing details on the deprivation of ceramic workers in Thangarh, says: “44 respondents said they had been working for more than 20 years. years and still have not been covered. By the law. Just over 50% of respondents said they had worked for three years or less. Of the remainder, about 27% of respondents have worked for 3 to 10 years in the current job.
Stressing that “one of the respondents, aged 60, has been working since 1980 only earns Rs 7,000 per month”, which is “much less than the minimum wage”, according to the study, a 48-year-old man has started working at the age of eight, while another respondent, a 56-year-old man, started working at the age of 16.
During interaction with workers, PTRC researchers found that since ceramic workers are exposed to silica, they are vulnerable to silicosis and tuberculosis, noting: “A 42-year-old worker has been diagnosed with silicosis. His ESI contribution is not deducted. He has been working since 2017 in the current job.
In addition, “of the two cases of silicosis, one is a 42-year-old man and the other is a 55-year-old man. Both are not covered by any ESI law. Both earn 7,000 rupees per month, which is well below the minimum wage decided by the state government. Both are currently working.
He adds: “One of them, aged 42, started working in 2000. He has been complaining of shortness of breath for two years. He also complains of anorexia, chest pain, cough with sputum and lack of sleep. He has two children in school to support. Rajkot civilian hospital diagnosed him with silicosis in December 2019. ”
(This was first published in Counterview)