US Swaminarayan network ‘responsible’ for deadly silicosis at Rajasthan mining site

counterview.net | May 19, 2021

Top civil rights network, Occupational and Environmental Health Network India (OEHNI), which is known to work for occupational safety and health (OSH) rights, has said that not only are the Swaminarayan temple owners in New Jersey responsible for “violating” the labour law of the US by paying a meagre $1 per hour to its workers, it is should also take the responsibility for high level of silicosis in Sirohi, Rajasthan, where stand stone for the temple is mined.

In a statement, Jagdish Patel, national coordinator, OEHNI, said, stones so carved in Rajasthan are exported to the sites where this temple is being built. More than 200 workers who were taken to New Jersey site were made to work for long hours and not paid minimum wages, even as “silica dust levels at work were neither monitored nor maintained as per US standards.”

Text:
OEHNI was shocked to learn about the plight of the Indian migrant workers who were flown to the USA by their employer to build a Hindu religious sect Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) temple in the New Jersey state. We thank and congratulate the International Commission on Dalit Rights for filing a law suit for violating labour laws like minimum wages and safety at work. We appreciate and congratulate the brave workers who have dared to bring this challenge on foreign soil where they have poor political and social support.

BAPS has their workshops in Sirohi district in Rajasthan where sand stone in mined and worked on by the local craftsmen to carve the arches, designs and statues as per the drawings provided to them. They are exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust which is not monitored. Hundreds of stone workers have been victims of silicosis and have died prematurely. Most of these workers in India are not covered by social security and are not paid any compensation by the employer. Instead the state Government in Rajasthan pays them some relief.

Stones so carved in Rajasthan are exported to the sites where this temple is being built. It is shocking to know that more than 200 workers who were taken to New Jersey site were made to work for long hours, were not paid minimum wages in US and were working in hazardous conditions. From what we understand, the silica dust levels at work were neither monitored nor maintained as per US standards.

What is more shocking is to know that their passports were being confiscated by the employer to restrict their freedom. Most workers who do not know English must have very hard time. Their right to work with dignity was robbed from them. One of the sustainable development goals is Goal 8.8 Decent work which has been forgotten by the employer of these workers.

When they have been rescued, we hope and believe that they will be taken care of by the local Government and local supporters. We laud the statement issued by the The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craft workers and its Administrative District Council of New Jersey (BAC) along with the Pathar Gadhai Mazdoor Suraksha Sangh (PGMSS).
We support the action taken by the International Commission on Dalit Rights and we stand by the brave struggle waged by the workers. It will open up new windows to look at the conditions of the migrant workers brought under the name of religious volunteers. We demand quick and full justice for these workers.

We also recognize that workers in Rajasthan produce for temples in the United States and as an importing country; it should be concerned about the workers safety and work conditions. We also appeal to the Indian diaspora, who would be among the largest number of devotees of these temples to stand by the workers.

Delink ration cards and vaccination from Aadhaar: former bureaucrat

The Hindu | Visakhapatnam | May 19, 2021

‘Over 3,000 tribals in Paderu area lost opportunity to get vaccination due to linkage norms’

Appreciating the State government’s decision to deliver ration almost near the doorstep of the beneficiaries, former secretary to the Union government E.A.S. Sarma said that linking the PDS ration cards and even COVID vaccination to Aadhaar, may not give the desired result.

In a letter addressed to the Chief Minister, he pointed out that thousands of tribals have not been able to go through the verification process associated with the issuance of the Aadhaar numbers, as they reside in remote and inaccessible areas. In such a scenario, linkage of Aadhaar may not serve good for the tribals, he said.

Mr. Sarma pointed out that Aadhaar linkage in the Paderu area of Visakhapatnam district had deprived more than 3,000 tribals of their opportunity to get vaccination, as a result of which they stand severely exposed to the virus.

Substantiating his claim, the former bureaucrat said that an NGO, Lib Tech of India, has carried out a comprehensive study of the numbers of the tribals adversely affected by not being able to get Aadhaar numbers, the range of the factors responsible for it and the corrective measures that need to be taken urgently to enable those tribals to get access not only to PDS rations but also to vaccination.

Based on a field study in villages from two mandals, followed by telephonic interviews with people from 50 Gram Panchayats across four ITDAs, the study estimates that between 7,000 and 35,000 families have been excluded from the PDS in ITDA areas.

‘Involve Gram Sabhas’

Mr. Sarma suggested that the State government should take advantage of the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) which empowers the local tribal Gram Sabhas in the formulation and implementation of all schemes meant to benefit the tribals.

The verification process in close consultation with the Gram Sabha would be simpler and more authentic and would make the scheme more meaningful and beneficial. The Gram Sabhas should be fully involved in identifying the beneficiaries in the case of all such schemes, he said.

Mineral Foundation fund to be used to buy oxygen tankers in Karnataka

The New Indian Express | May 16, 2021

The state government on Saturday decided to utilise the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) fund for the purchase of oxygen tankers, oxygen concentrators,

The state government on Saturday decided to utilise the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) fund for the purchase of oxygen tankers, oxygen concentrators, pulse oximeters and other emergency medical needs.

A meeting chaired by Mines and Geology minister Murugesh R Nirani decided to utilise funds available under the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) fund to tackle the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, said a statement issued by the minister’s office.

As per the decisions taken at the meeting, the authorities will procure 10 cryogenic oxygen tankers — two each will be provided to four revenue divisions in the state, and two oxygen tankers will be sent to the coastal region. Regional Commissioners will be given the power to manage and monitor the movements of these oxygen tankers, the statement said.

DMF funds for pandemic treatment

The Hindu | May 13, 2021

The Mines and Geology Department has allowed Dakshina Kannada district administration to utilise funds available under the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) for purchase of oxygen tankers, medicines and other health related items needed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department has decided to consider similar demands from other districts.

The decision was taken after BJP State President Nalin Kumar Kateel appealed to Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh Nirani seeking utilisation of funds under DMF owing to fund crunch faced by the authorities. Mr. Kateel recently spoke to Mr. Nirani and requested him to allow the district to use funds under DMF for purchase of emergency medical needs such as oxygen tankers which are essential to stock oxygen and transport it to hospitals treating COVID patients.

A note from Mr. Nirani’s office said that the Karnataka government had set up the DMF for development of mining-ravaged districts in the State. The funds can be used for welfare schemes such as health, pollution control, women and child development, drinking water supply, sanitation, education, skill development, power generation and irrigation, the note said.

Rs. 20 crore from Mineral Fund spent on roads, water projects

The Hindu | May 11, 2021

The East Godavari District Committee on District Mineral Fund (DMF) on Monday accepted a proposal to allocate funds for the seven rural water supply works and repairs of the Tuni-Kattipudi road, during a virtual meeting headed by Collector D. Muralidhar Reddy.

Joint Collector (Revenue) G. Lakshmisha and Sub-Collectors at Amalapuram and Rajamahendravaram and Project Officers at Rampachodavaram and Chintoor participated in the meeting.

“A total of Rs. 20 crore fund from the Rs. 32.89 crore District Mineral Fund has been spent on various developmental works including roads, water and health in the areas where the mining activities have been permitted,” said Mr. Muralidhar.

The government collects fund from the mining companies and agencies engaged in the mining of various mineral resources in the district. The committee has allocated Rs. 2.64 crore for the seven rural water supply projects at Rajanagaram Assembly segment. Officials have been directed to speed up the proposed works.

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