Jaipur: In a landmark development, the Rajasthan government has announced welfare step for workers employed in the many mines scattered throughout the state.
The move is a welcome step for laborers as the state will share its responsibility towards workers employed in the sector.
Rajasthan has the highest number of mainlining leases in the country. The state has 1,324 leases for major minerals, 10,851 for minor minerals and 19,251 quarry licenses for mining stones, employing large number of workers, majority of whom come in the unorganized sector .
According to estimates, more than 25 lakh workers are employed with the mining industry in the state.
However, lack of enforcement laws has helped mining companies exploit the situation. Laborers are forced to work in hazardous conditions leaving them exposed to diseases like silicosis. What adds to their misery is they are never compensated under any Act. The employers do not keep records of employment making them not liable for compensation under any Act.
According to Times of India, chief secretary C K Mathew held a meeting to address the concern and has assured compensation to mine workers afflicted with silicosis. The workers can now claim compensations from the environment safety cess collected from mine owners by the state.
The meeting was also attended by principal secretaries of finance and labour and planning, secretary and director mining, Director general of mines safety (DGMS), regional labour commissioner, member of state human rights commission and the managing trustee of Mine Labour Protection Campaign (MLPC) Rana Sengupta.
However, the government will finalise the procedure for the compensation in the next meeting of the Rajasthan Environmental Health Administration Board (REHAB).
During the meeting, it was also decided to entrust district collectors to get medical and other reports of the deceased verified through the chief medical health officer and other health officials. Only those workers who are tested positive with silicosis will be recommended for compensation to the state mining department, said the report.
The meeting has also promised to look into the provisions for ensuring that mine workers get the same benefits as those falling under the Construction and Allied Industries Act 1996. Mine workers in the unorganized sector were out of the purview of the Act so long as lack of an attendance register, provident fund or even a salary slip to prove employment were never given to these workers by mine owners. Provisions have also been initiated to bring them under the national insurance scheme.