Silicosis: Govt delays implementation of compensation scheme for victims’ kin

An internal communication of the labour department shows the government has decided, as of now, not to give compensation money to the families of agate workers who succumb to silicosis if the deceased had not bought a life insurance policy before his or her death.

The revelation is significant because the state had last year passed a resolution detailing a scheme by which the heir or next of kin of agate workers who die from silicosis would be given a compensation of Rs 1 lakh.

Silicosis is a terminal respiratory condition caused by prolonged inhalation of dust produced during agate polishing, among others, and is widespread among unorganised agate polishers in Anand's Khambat region as well as workers in silica mines in the Panchmahals district.

The People's Training Centre, which runs an office and clinics for victims in Khambat, called the government's move "a joke". Its director Jagdish Patel had shared a copy of the memo with The Indian Express.

Patel said he found out about it after visiting the Labour Department's Gandhinagar offices last week to assist the kin of five workers who died of silicosis after the resolution for compensation was passed in May 2012.

A senior labour department official said the government is wary that its provisions may not be implemented properly and has therefore refrained from clearing it. He denied a lack of funds as a reason for the delay and said the department continues to "actively consider" the scheme.

"The government was unsure if the resolution can be implemented properly in its present form. It is under active consideration, as are the provisions outlined in the memo," the official said, requesting anonymity.

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