Asbestos Outreach Project in India
An asbestos medical diagnosis camp, held under the auspices of the Mine Labour Protection Campaign (MLPC) in collaboration with the Occupational Health and Safety Centre (Mumbai)1, was run during August 4-10, 2011 in Akodra village, Jhadol block, a remote locale in Rajasthan.2 The conditions in this village mirror those in the rugged hamlets in the Aravalli hill range where the former asbestos mine workers live. In this difficult terrain there is no electricity, no phones and no easy access to health care.
Two hundred and forty-five impoverished asbestos workers, male and female, were transported 30 kilometers to the nearest health clinic to be examined by a medical team headed by Dr. V. Murli, an expert in occupational medicine.
Chest X-rays were taken, sputum tests done and medical examinations carried out, as a result of which a staggering 50% of the cohort was diagnosed with asbestosis.
This NGO-initiative was necessary because of the absence of government support for the injured, most of whom are disqualified from receiving help due to their lack of paperwork authenticating their status as valid citizens. During the recent interviews, MLPC personnel were able to assist the workers to obtain Below the Poverty Line (BPL) cards. In addition to proving that these individuals are valid Indian citizens, these cards enable them to access free health care and some welfare benefits. As a result of these diagnoses, government funds are being promised for the health care needs of the injured; the nearest hospital will be upgraded with equipment needed for the treatment of these patients. In addition, consideration is being given to the provision of a mobile health unit by the Government. Speaking about the MLPC's latest asbestos outreach project, Rana Sengupta, the MLPC's Managing Trustee, said:
There are thousands of asbestos mine workers in Jhadol. Although it has been more than 15 years that mine workers [officially] stopped working in asbestos mines in Rajasthan, asbestos continues to kill people.
Even though the mining of asbestos has been banned in India, pressure is being exerted by vested interests for this prohibition to be revoked. The Indian Government must not only retain this ban but also work with the MLPC and other NGOs to implement a coordinated program of support for those whose lives have been brutally damaged by exposure to asbestos.
August 12, 2011
1 Over 100 labourers diagnosed with asbestosis. August 11, 2011.
2 For another asbestos initiative carried out by the MLPC see:
Impasse Overcome by Indian Protests. January 7, 2011.
Also see MLPC website: http://www.mlpc.in/