Standing up for the Rights of Silicosis-Affected in Purohitsar

The RPKNMS initiated the CLFZ intervention last year in the Western District of Rajasthan State Jaisalmer – Village Purohitsar. This village has 104 families with major occupation being stone quarrying in the nearby masonry stone mines. The masonry stone is a low-cost stone and wages earned by the workers are accordingly also low. Hence, some of the village members also work in quarry mines in other areas of the State. One such story is that of Durga Ram, 40 years old who along with his wife used to travel to Balesar District (about 90 kilometres from Purohitsar) for regular work and better wages.

For a number of years now, Durga Ram has been facing respiratory problems and has spent a large amount of money on consultations, medicines and other forms of remedies over the last 10 years but to no avail. He had to stop working five years ago owing to ill health. His wife started working in the quarry, however the family’s economic condition deteriorated severely and even though his four school-going age children are enrolled at the school, they attended school sporadically and contribute to family’s income by shepherding the goats and assisting with mine work. There is also a loan of 100,000 INR borrowed from relatives for treatment and medicines of Durga Ram.

After coming in touch with the union – RPKNMS, the union pursued his case as the leadership feared that he may be affected with silicosis and immediately wrote to the District Collector who in turn wrote to the Department of Labour. The Department of Labour has recommended for registration of Durga Ram to the State Construction Workers Welfare Board for coverage and receipt of benefits to the family. The union also enlisted his case to the Pneumoconiosis Board and on 10th February 2016, he underwent check-up and was confirmed as Silicosis-affected. His silicosis certificate is under process and shall be provided soon, following which he shall be granted 100,000 INR by the State Government. Durga Ram has now been registered under the Rajasthan State Construction Workers Welfare Board. There is a waiting period of one year in the Board, after which educational expenses of children studying in grade VI and above shall be covered by the Board and the Board shall also bear expenses for children’s marriage up to two children. The Board also provides for treatment assistance and accidental insurance.

This story is significant to the project because it helped the partner organisation to make inroads to new areas hitherto uncovered by any CSO or any other organisation which could have taken up case of Durga Ram and many others in this CLFZ. This will also strengthen the campaign on Silicosis and highlight campaign at the State, National and International level. Till date, RPKNMS has been involved in getting relief to Silicosis victims to the tune of 529,00,000 INR (Euro 708,942). Apart from Durga Ram, the union has referred 8 workers for silicosis check-up from this village. Since the start of union intervention on CLFZ in Purohitsar village in early 2015 – the union has 100% membership in the village (222 members – 124 Men and 98 Women). The union has also facilitated registration of 78 workers in the State Construction Workers Welfare Board. Additionally, the union to gain foothold in the community has been actively taking up community concerns including water supply, inflated electricity bills and lack of decent livelihood opportunities.