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August 13, 2011

Systemic failure continues to choke the lungs of children

Ushinor Majumdar & Deepak Mahato

August 11, 2011

Ranchi: “I am Kalam” said a 10-year old boy from Shikaripara in Gumla district while walking down the isle with confidence and coughing during a program in the state capital on Thursday.

Kalam makes Rs 50 a day, working for about ten hours carrying about 300 receptacles of stones on his head. Kalam is working in a stone-crushing unit near his village since his father eloped with a woman from the neighboring village three years back.

Samata Foundation, an NGO which works with child rights, held a public hearing on the violation of child rights at the HRDC on Wednesday. The focus was on children whose health is affected by the mining of minerals and uranium in their locality.

Kalam says, “School is twenty kilometers away from his village and there are no proper roads through which we can travel to the school.”

The confidence in Kalam’s gait and the cough both come from supporting his family by inhaling stone dust. Kalam takes care of his ailing mother and a sister who is two years younger to him and suffering from an unknown disease.

Since, there is no health centre close by, the village quack prescribes him ‘natural’ medicines but these offer temporary respite.

Vijay Sharan, 13-year-old resident of Paseria in Hazaribagh, wakes up at 3 AM and helps his father look for coal in the rubble of waste left by bigger machines. They raise and extract coals – work that is otherwise done by heavy machinery and hazard-protected workers for mineral extraction companies.

Vijay says, “We raise about 6-7 sacks a day and then by 7 am, my father goes to Ranchi to sell the coal. I go home to get ready for school.”

A shroud of coal dust has settled on the lives of families who live near mines in Jharkhand. Their struggle into the below poverty line (BPL) category of the Indian government has been under the weight of sacks of coal, other minerals and stones  that they carry after scavenging them from the mineral waste of big public and private corporations. The worst affected are the children who start as mine labourers during their childhood.

It is not an uncommon sight to see entire families sifting through piles of dark grey and black dust looking for pieces of discarded, low-grade coal that they can sell for small and medium commercial use in Jamshedpur and Ranchi. The payment received is not even enough for the family to survive. Education and healthcare are luxuries.

R Ravi, secretary of Samata Foundation, recounts how his vehicle was stopped by soot-covered 6 year olds who demanded money to let his vehicle pass. Looking around, he realised that these were the unsupervised children of parents who were scavenging for coal.

Graphic Inputs:

Occupational diseases:

Source Occupational Disease

Silica Silicosis

Iron Dust Siderosis

Asbestos  Asbestosis

Coal Coal Worker Pneumoconiosis

Beryllium Berilliosis

Strontium Stroniosis 

Source: data submitted for NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SILICOSIS on 1st March 2011 Organized by National Human Rights Commission NEW DELHI


Government misses critical hearing on child rights

Ushinor Majumdar

August 12, 2011

Ranchi: Major government agencies passed up an invite by Samata Foundation to a crucial public hearing on violation of child rights in the state held in Ranchi on Thursday.

Amongst those present were representatives from the Mineral Development Corporation and the Women’s Welfare Department.

Child rights protection bodies such as the sarva shikshya abhiyan, women and children development department, health and family welfare department, mining department, labour department, water resources and management department, children’s commission and other were not present.

The secretary of Samata foundation, Mr R Ravi, said this was also “symptomatic of the systemic failure of the government to provide crucial aid to these children.”

Despite the heavy rains, Samata Foundation had managed to bring some of those directly affected by various child rights violations to the public hearing.

Jharkhand is one of the seven states where Samata Foundation has conducted a sample survey amongst various people who are affected by mining activities. Many work in the mines and quarries and develop a number of occupational diseases such as silicosis and tuberculosis.

Dr D K Jha – assistant professor (medicine) with Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Ranchi – says, “Symptoms of silicosis is similar to that of tuberculosis. Silicosis is the diffused fibrosis of the lungs and one of the main indicators is the prolonged exposure to dust from stone-crushing, quarrying and sand-blasting in mines.”

According to Dr Jha, fibrosis is the formation of white non-functional tissues in the lungs, which can be seen in an x-ray.

According to Dr Jha, a minimum of a few months of exposure to the dust is necessary. Silicosis creates a predisposition for tuberculosis in the patient.

Dr KK Singh, head of chest diseases and tuberculosis at RIMS says, “Often the symptoms for silicosis is misdiagnosed as tuberculosis.”

According to both doctors, tuberculosis is a bacterial infection and silicosis results in fibrosis; but both result in similar symptoms such as incessant coughing and breathlessness.

Aradhana Pattnaik – National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) mission director and labour commissioner for Jharkhand – says, “We were unable to attend the event but there is a joint effort of NRHM and labour department. A joint programme with a cell called the Occupational Disease Detection Centre has also been set up to look into these issues.”

According to Aradhana, the labour, pollution, health departments and Samit Kumar Carr, secretary general, Occupational Safety & Health Association of Jharkhand are working together

The NRHM has been sanctioned funds of Rs 5 lakhs which they are using for sensitisation. There are 30 or 40 occupational diseases and the joint programmes  aim to address these through prevention and treatment programmes.


Jharkhand and ILO gears up for phase two of child labour rehabilitation

Ushinor Majumdar

Ranchi: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) was in Ranchi on Thursday and Friday for meetings with the labour department for commencing phase two of the state plan for rehabilitation of child labourers.

Labour Commissioner for Jharkhand, Aradhana Pattnaik briefed Hindustan Times about the plan and the second phase. She said that the ILO was here for monitoring of the child rehabilitation plan that is being run as a model project in Ranchi and Sahibgunj districts of Jharkhand. The work for phase two have also been set in motion and will start soon.

Aradhana says, “There are 2000 child labourers in Ranchi district and 2,300 in Sahibgunj districts. They have been rehabilitated through the rehabilitation plan and now phase two is for rehabilitating the children’s families as well.”

The child labourers rehabilitated in Ranchi have been put in the three National Child Labour Project (NCLP) schools. From end of August, the state will start distribution of health cards to the children in more than 40,000 schools in Jharkhand. Phase two of the plan will also commence  in August with distribution of health cards to children in the NCLP schools.

In Jharkhand, the highest share of child labour participation are in agriculture at 65.28%, 14.63% in Manufacturing and 12.08% in manufacturing. According to a recent study by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, the districts in Jharkhand showed an increase in child labour between 1991 and 2001, while they were a part of Bihar. As per the national statistical survey organisation (NSSO), sample surveys of 2004-05 show that rate of workforce participation of children is decreasing over the years. (See tables)

The child labour rehabilitation plan will look at rehabilitating their families as the children work to supplement their family income. According to Aradhana, if the families are  rehabilitated, the children will not need to go back to earning for their families.

The plan includes integration of multiple schemes available under state and national plans. Rehabilitation includes providing work for the families, health and disability benefits, pensions and ensuring registration so that they get minimum wages as applicable. They will be provided work opportunities under MGREGA, registered as construction workers and other livelihood-generation opportunities such as supply of sewing machines.

Self-help groups (SHGs) and Jharcraft will also provide assistance to some of these families.

Jharcraft is the Jharkhand Silk Textile & Handicraft Development Corporation Ltd, which markets merchandise manufactured by the local artisans, SHG’s, & non-government organisations. Jharcraft also provides all possible support to them in terms of finance, raw materials, design assistance, marketing and so on.


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