Saturday, December 22, 2012

Conference on Environmental & Occupational Health in Patna on Dec 24

Conference on Environmental & Occupational Health in Patna

This is to cordially invite you for the Conference on Environmental and Occupational Health in Patna on December 24, 2012. 

The Conference on Environmental and Occupational Health is being organized in collaboration with A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna, Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) and PEACE, New Delhi. 

Venue: A.N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies, near Golghar, Patna
Date: December 24, 2012
Time: 10.00 onwards

At the conference there will be presentations from eminent scientists and public health specialists including experts from India and aboard like Dr Qamar Rahman, Dr Barry Castleman besides eminent doctors from Patna. There will be case studies on environmental and occupational diseases from some Gujarat, Maharshtra, Rajasthan and Jharkhand as well.

Your presence will be of immense importance.

warm regards
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 08002263335 (Patna), 9818089660 (Delhi)
Phone: +91-11-2651781
Fax: +91-11-26517814

Draft Agenda

Conference on Environmental and Occupational Health, Patna, December 24, 2012

Venue: A.N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies, near Golghar, Gandhi Maidan, Patna
Date: December 24, 2012
Time: 10.00 AM onwards
Registration & Tea- 10.00-10.30 AM

Welcome Address-Prof. D M Diwakar, Director, ANSISS, Patna
Inaugural Address
Opening Remarks: Prof. D M Diwakar, Director, ANSISS, Patna
Introduction-Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Collegium Ramazzini Round Table on Environmental & Occupational Diseases
Session I (10.30 AM -12.00 NOON)  

Chair-Prof Ishwari Prasad, former Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)    
Co-Chair- Dr Satyajit Singh, Senior Urologist, Dr. Ruban Group of Hospitals & Vice- President, Indian Doctors for Peace and Development

Externalization of the cost of environmental and occupational diseases Chairperson’s address, Prof Ishwari Prasad, former Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)
Dr. Irving J. Selikoff Memorial Lecture, Dr Barry Castleman, fellow Collegium Ramazzini, USA, formerly with World Health Organisation and author, Medical & Legal Aspects of Asbestos   
Keynote Address on 'Toxic Legacy of carcinogenic fibers, environmental and occupational diseases for present generation and posterity' Prof. Qamar Rahman, Visiting Professor, Rostock University Germany, formerly with Institute of Toxicological Research Centre, Lucknow
Dr P N P Pal, ex-President Indian Medical Association, Bihar Chapter 
Dr Jitendra Kumar Singh, Director, Mahavir Cancer Sansthan and Research Center
Prof. Ashok Ghosh, Professor-in-Charge, Department Environment and Water Management, AN College Patna
Prof. D M Diwakar, Director, ANSISS, Patna
Dr Shakeel, National Secretary, Indian Doctors for Peace and Development
Interaction with participants
Purnendu Majumadar Memorial Round Table Session II (12.00- 3.15 PM)
Chair- Justice (Retd) Rekha Kumari, Patna High Court
Co-Chair: Dr Qamar Rahman, noted toxicologist

Compensation Regime for environmental and occupational diseases in India, Chairperson’s address by Justice (Retd) Rekha Kumari, Patna High Court

Case Study of Mines Labour Protection Campaign (MLPC), Rana Sengupta, Environmental and Occupational Health Diseases from Rajasthan

Lunch- 1.30 PM-2.15 PM  

Legacy of Struggle for Occupational Health Rights in Jharkhand, Samir K Carr, Occupational Safety and Health Association of Jharkhand
Case Study from Breakthrough Science Society, West Bengal  
Case Study from Bargarh and Sambalpur, Odisha, Amitabh Patra,   
Case Study from Maharasthra, Pralhad Malvadkar
Insights from the struggle in Bhojpur, Bihar 
Case Study from Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jansangharsh Committee of Muzaffarpur and Vaishali, Bihar

Interaction with participants  

Dr M K Pandhe Memorial Round Table Session III (3.15 PM-5.00 PM)

Chair- Prof (Dr) Qamar Rahman, noted toxicologist 
Co-Chair: Shri Arun Kumar Singh, President, All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Bihar

Shri Chakradhar Prasad Singh, AITUC  
Shri Sarovodaya Sharma, CITU
Shri RN Thakur, AICCTU
Shri Arvind Sinha, All India Federation of Trade Unions (New)
Shri Nand Kishor Singh 
Shri Satish Kumar, CCI
Shri Jamiruddinji, MCPI
Shri Mahendra, NAPM

Interaction with participants

Communicating environmental & occupational diseases Session IV (5.00-6.00 PM)
Chair- Dr Barry Castleman, noted environmental health expert   
 Co-chair: Shri Arun Kumar, Member, Press Council of India
Media persons

Summing up and Resolution Prof Ishwari Prasad, former Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)
Valedictory Address
Vote of Thanks

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Beware of the mirage of 24X7 Ganga water supply for 25 Bihar towns besides Patna

The 24X7 safe water supply is an euphemism for privatization of water supply. Citizen groups  of Patna are wary of Patna water supply project that began as a Rs 800 crore Build–operate–transfer (BOT)  project. It was turned into a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) project of Rs 750 crore. The State Government changed the project into an Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) contract and invited bids for the Rs 550 crore project. 
A SPV of Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation (BUIDCo) is executing the project under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). BUIDCo invited firms to design, build, operate, manage and maintain the new 24x7 water supply system in Patna.
The consortium of Geo Miller & Company Private Limited and Gammon India Limited has been chosen by the BUIDCo for the job. 
Geo Miller has been implementing water supply projects across the country, including water treatment plants in Hyderabad, Bhopal and Udaipur. Gammon India is the same company that has built the admittedly flawed Kosi Mahasetu whose adverse effects has already been recorded and in future too its victims will suffer its consequences.    
The promise of 24X7 Ganga water supply is a mirage, residents of Patna in particular and citizens of Bihar ought to be wary of given the fact that DPR for 24 X 7 water supply for 25 Bihar towns is in the offing. These towns are Bettiah, Motihari, Saharsa, Sitamarhi, Kishanganj, Katihar, Purnia, Ara, Chapra, Hajipur, Siwan, Aurangabad, Bhabua, Buxar, Sasaram, Bihar Sharif, Jehanabad, Nawada, Rajgir, Shaikhpura, Banka, Begusarai, Jamui, Lakhisarai and Munger 
The reported claims of Bihar Urban development and housing minister Prem Kumar about 24X7 supply of safe drinking water to all households in Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) area within the next two years merits rigorous scrutiny.
Water treatment plant, 25 tubewells and 72 water towers are proposed to be constructed to supply water to about 16.83 lakh people residing in 72 wards of Patna. A gauge would be used to measure the supply of 135 litres of drinking water per person per day and the scheme would ensure supply of 325 million litre of water per day (MLD).
The 47 wards of the northern part are to receive 220 MLD drinking water treated from the Ganga river from the water treatment plant that would be constructed at Digha. The 25 wards of South Patna are supposed to get 105.5 MLD of drinking water through tubewells.
It has been reported that the joint initiative by the central and state governments would see a total expenditure of Rs 548 crore, of which Rs 476 crore would be spent for infrastructure to supply drinking water and Rs 72 crore for maintenance over the next 10 years.
The execution of the project has been assigned to a special purpose vehicle (SPV) company Patna Water Supply Distribution Network Private Limited under BUIDCo. It is expected to complete the work before April 1, 2014 and the company would be looking after the maintenance of the project for the next 10 years.
Citizens' groups in Patna and other 25 towns will have to examine the track record of these companies and their performance in other cities of the country.

Mukhiya is an endangered species in Bihar

Mukhiya Rajkumar Paswan killed, so far 34 mukhiyas eliminated in 2 years 

Patna, Dec 15 (IANS) A village head (mukhiya) was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Bihar's Aurangabad district, police said Saturday. This is the fourth murder of a mukhiya from Aurangabad in the past few months.

Rajkumar Paswan, village head of Khudwa panchayat, Obra block, Aurangabad, was killed late Friday night while he was returning to his village, a district police official said.
Angry over his killing, Paswan's supporters protested, blocked roads and shouted slogans against the local administration.

In November, Sudesh Kumar Singh, mukhiya of the Karma panchayat in Aurangabad was slain by unidentified people.

In March, Chhotu Kushwaha, mukhiya of the Sonhattu panchayat under the Haspura block was shot dead. Before that, Arif Khan, mukhiya of Obra panchayat, was killed.

In view of the killing of village heads with such frequency, a group of mukhiyas approached the district administration two months ago demanding bodyguards for mukhiyas, a district official said.
Hundreds of elected representatives in rural Bihar have sought bodyguards, citing threats from Maoists, gangsters, criminals and rivals.

Since the panchayat elections were held in Bihar over two years ago, 34 elected heads of panchayats have been killed.

In Bihar, there are 8,442 village body heads, 8,422 sarpanchs, 1,15,542 panchayat members, 11,534 panchayat samiti members and 1,162 zila parishad members.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nilekani putting the cart before the horse

Note: In his November 23, 2012 lecture which faced walk out by civil liberties and human rights activists and student leaders, Nilekani talks about a gigantic naming ceremony underway-mankind’s biggest biometric database ever at. He says, if you do not have the Aadhaar card you will not get the right to rights. UID is like a financial address for the people. The question is if Aadhaar card is only an identifier of residents of India how does it accord to itself an inherent right to approve or disapprove rights of citizens to have rights? Nilekani mentions the October 2012 Report of the Justice A P Shah headed Group of Experts on Privacy but ignores the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and the Statement of Concern on UID that Justice Shah had co-signed. When Nilekani acknowledges that privacy is larger than Adhaar and says that legal framework will even out the design risks, he takes the audience for ride by hiding the fact that he is putting the cart before the horse because while the legal framework for both the UID and Privacy is absent the implementation of UID and National Population Register (NPR) is unfolding illegally and illegitimately. Given below is the notes of Nilekani’s lecture prepared by Ravinder Bawa, a journalist who attended Nilekani’s lecture on November 23, 2012 at India International Centre, New Delhi Gopal Krishna Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) Nandan Nilenkani in a lecture on UID (don’t use them as direct quotes) There is no claim that technology can solve all the problems but a part of the problem and be solved and addressed through technology. Few things are- Identity Acknowledgement It is important that the identity be recognized by the state, and in our country more than 50 per cent people do not have birth certificates. To handle this situation the government has to come out with a solution that can be dealt with at a mass level. There has to be a way to assign IDs, a formal ID for all these people. This is the first task of inclusion is to have a way of acknowledging existence. It’s like a gigantic naming ceremony, to get the names in the system. It is like a gigantic Ellis Island project of the 21st century. The real challenge is to how different this system be as compared to other systems in the world. Due to the need to have a 21st century welfare state, you need a ID system to be robust. We want to build a welfare state and give ID to many so in a way this project helps bridge the gap from point of view of people. It is a process of inclusion. It is a social inclusion project system. We are designing a modern system, a digital system. It is leapfrogging to have a digital ID which works in the online world therefore it enables us to access mobility and choice for the people in the system where people are migrating. Choice and Access In the modern ID system the id travels with the people when they move from point A to point B. It gives them mobility. It gives them the choice (to use all ration shop and not just the one which they are registered with). It is something like what markets did to Indian middle-class, they gave them choice- what to buy where to buy it from. They were given choice through markets. Earlier the people who had no buying power so their choice was limited. If you look at the PDS system a person is assigned to one shop or one primary health centre. Their’s is connect a static connect. In the existing public delivery system the bargaining power lies with the service provider. The second benefit is that the ID enables choice. If it is online then I can verify the ID in any shop and it can disconnect the physical location fundamentally. This choice in important from the point of view of inclusion and accessing this choice becomes important. Design Thirdly it is the design. Unless it is a unique ID you cannot get anywhere. To identify a person uniquely is important to the Adhaar card. If you do not have the card you will not get the right to rights. It is about aam aadmi ka adhikar. While designing it, this aspect is kept in mind and that’s why we have biometrics. This is what are the uses of the card, it can be used in healthcare, any application this ID can be used. We are creating different applications in which this ID can be used. It is like the I-phone which has different applications and each ones uses the application more useful to them. It is like an open platform and then different services can use this on different applications. How do people get entry into a service. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER KYC, to access any service. It will get u access to basic products like bank, phone or any other. Financial action task force had, many years back, laid down basic procedures and then India made the PMLA act under which you specify what documents need to be provided for you to open an account or access a particular service. Aadhaar has been included in it. We are using technology to get everyone access banks under PMLA. This allows people access bank accounts, phones, micro mutual funds it is a gateway to getting any kind of product and service. By creating this system we are creating the access to various services- 220 million people have access already and it is access at large scale. It is ability to use technology to provide access at scale. Electronic KYC Now we have the concept of electronic KYC where u are authorised to use UID to open a bank account instantly. U do not need any documents. You walk into the bank and your account can be opened. Ability to give instant access amplifies the reach and EKYC property gives u online access. Transactions Many government programmes exist where the government gives cash to people. There is a way to make it better. Now you will have this unique ID and with it a bank account and money can reach the account directly, there will be no middleman. In the process you do to have to give a cut to the delivering point. This ID is like a financial address for the people if the govt wants to send money it can do it directly. From pension to payments under MNREGS…all can be sent directly to the people. Ability to use Adhaar as financial address allows you to have a financial access. It just sends money to the number. This is another access point. The government will be able to give money to the individual’s bank account. U suddenly empower crores of people. KYC of bank account allows u to make bank account and cash transfers and you get the money you are entitled to. Accessing this money is also made simple. Government will create a network of access points similar to ATMS or customer service points. All will be interoperable. Grids which are interoperable will be created and there will be micro ATMs from where you can access the money. Cash Transfers is to make the people get the money easily. This technology is fundamental to change the relationship between the individual and the state. It is fundamental to access and empowerment. It is at scale and at speed. Risks Preivew and Screening is a concern, security is a concern. The amount of info we are collection is basic information about an individual, the purpose is to provide a unique ID. Biometrics is done to get de-duplication and outline verification. It is name address and bioemetrics. This is not humungous database with everything about you. It is just like a verigfication id. This is an architecture. It is designed in a way as federated architecture. UID does not know what the system does not know. It does not know what transactions you have done. There are multiple databases and they do not know what has been the way of operation in each other. No one system knows everything. People could combine databases. We will need a legal superstructure to provide data privacy data prevention rules. Privacy is larger than Adhaar. In the digital world, all of your data is digital, the solution is not don’t do it, but have a legal superstructure where we can balance convenience with privacy. Justice Shah has come out with privacy issue report. Adhaar is a part of the bigger eco system. It is providing millions a tangible system of choice, mobility, cash transfers and to make the balance between the benefit and the legal framework is important. Transparency Transparency is an issue in our society right now. Corruption is an issue. I personally don’t think the solution is to add more laws, we have to think differently in solving the corruption issue. We can create a choice based architecture then we can deal with corruption problem. We have to think of using this technology in a smart way. We will be able to deal with these challenges. How do we use technology to completely change access? How do government decide who gets what? Its like you go to Amazon or ebay…they allow everyone to come on board and then they throw out the bad apples who do not use the system for the right purposes. At the point of entry there is not one who is stopped. U can enter the system as there are no barriers at the point of entry. Technology allows all to enter the system and then identify public policy design, give everyone an opportunity and this is ultimate inclusion. We can use data to see who is beating the system. Who are playing by the rules and who are not. My point is that the fundamental issue of access to basic services should be made available to the people. We have to keep in mind the choice and access while we use the technology imaginatively. This of course has risks circulated by design but a legal framework evens it out and the risk is worth it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Guard of Honor for Martyr Lt Col. Santosh Kumar Singh, 2/8 Gorkha Rifles

Guard of Honor for Martyr Lt Col. Santosh Kumar Singh, 2/8 Gorkha Rifles who became a Battle Casualty on India-China border post in Arunchal Pradesh. Lt Col. Santosh was an alumni of Sainik School Tilaiya, Delhi University and Indian Military Academy.    
The body of  Martyr Lt Col. Santosh Kumar Singh, 2/8 Gorkha Rifles who became a Battle Casualty on India-China border in Arunchal Pradesh reached Patna Airport around 12 AM. He was given the First Guard of Honor at the Airport. After that his body was moved to Danapur Cantonment where the Last Guard of Honor was given to him by Lt General S K Singh on behalf of the Chief of the Army, General Vikram Singh.        
Lt Col Santosh Kumar Singh became a battle casualty on the night of November 20, 2012. At around 6 AM on November 21, 2012 Shri Ramakant Singh, father of Lt Col Santosh was informed by Commanding Officer Kutti about his son’s death. Earlier at 3.30 AM in early morning of November 21, 2012, Commanding Officer Kutti called Advocate Arun Kumar Singh, husband of Lt Col. Santosh’s sister to inform about the casualty.

On November 23, 2012, General Sachdeva called on behalf of the Vice Army Chief to inform me that the casualty happened at the post due to fire caused due to short circuit caused due to lightening strike in a bad weather. This  was in response to the message sent to Lt General S K Singh. As per Advocate Arun Kumar Singh, it has been reported in Patna edition of Dainik Jagran newspaper of November 24, 2012 (on page no. 5) that Lt General S K Singh informed the media that Lt Col. Santosh Kumar Singh died on duty due to natural calamity and as per Army Rules, death due to natural calamity on duty is treated as battle casualty.   

Earlier, Hindustan newspaper, Bhojpur edition dated November 22, 2012 had reported on page no. 4 in a single column news item that Lt Col Santosh died due to firing by the Chinese troops. Lt Col Santosh was from Karath village, Tarari Block, Bhojpur. Journalists in Patna have learnt from Army sources in Danapur that Lt Col Santosh’s death is a case of battle casualty at Kibito border. 
As per the version I got, Lt Col Santosh was at the last border outpost near Chinese border. Situated at height of 5000 m approx. one can have a glimpse of the Chinese mainland/Towns from this spot. I knew that Lt Col Santosh was in Himachal Pradesh because his battalion 28 GR (Gorkha Regiment/Rifles) was posted in Shimla till July 2012. His battalion was moved to Arunachal Pradesh border.  I have learnt that he joined the unit on July 12, 2012.  

Journalists in Arunchal Pradesh earnt from Army Sources that on the day prior to his death because his leave has been granted he had boarded the helicopter to leave Helicopter but due to bad weather he had return back. 

Last year, political parties had demanded immediate clarification from the Central and the State governments on the reported Chinese firing at Indo-China border in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh when Chinese Army crossed the McMohon Line and entered at Kibito area in Anjaw district of the state and had exchanged cross firing with Indian forces which lasted more than one hour from November 7 to 10, 2011. Former of Parliament from Arunachal Pradesh (West) Kiren Rijiju has been demanding status quo in populated areas on both sides of the McMohan line or Line of Actual Control from the Prime Minister. He had sought reopening of border trade with China through traditional routes through reopening of Kibito and other places that has been closed since 1962. Following the death of Lt Col. Santosh Kumar Singh, Union Ministry of Defense should inform the Parliament about the situation at the battle front. 

Besides family members, friends, batchmates, schoolmates and fellow officers of Lt Col. Santosh Kumar Singh are deeply aggrieved with his untimely death. Lt Col. Santosh Kumar Singh is survived by his wife and his 7 years old son.
The facts stated above are not final. The version state above is subject to correction based on new inputs. Kindly share your views and inputs about Lt Col. Santosh Kumar Singh if there is any new insight in to this matter. with me, Gopal Krishna, Mb: 9818089660, E-mail:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Goddess Laxmi Hijacked

Short Story

Goddess Laxmi Hijacked


I was trying to converse with my beloved Ms Laxmi through telepathy. Suddenly, I heard the voice of Goddess Laxmi. Considering me to be her most loyal devotee she blessed me with unasked for boon saying, "whosoever you will be affectionate with, their house will get filled with wealth and prosperity." First, I went to Nandigram. Then to Adhikaripara, Pramanik Para and then to one-by-one to each village and hamlet. Then I turned towards the village of the displaced people of Narmada. Their poverty vanished. I then, went to my grandfather's village Manjhaul. I thought lets meet the Magahiya Musahars of Bansbadi. Goddess stopped me on the way and rebuked me with bad words saying, "I had said whosoever you will be affectionate with, their house will get filled with wealth and prosperity. But isn't there a limit to affection which is confined to one's own family, relatives and inherited kith and kin". 

I said, " If I am affectionate towards all the poor my country, why are feeling jealous?. Goddess Laxmi said, "whoever I have blessed has always deceived me. If you will continue to roam and alleviate the impoverishment of the poor, what will happen to the rich of the country ? Poor are born to serve the rich, the way fishes are meant to beautify the ponds, master archer.  If you want to  touch the stars of your accomplishments then instead of looking at the ugliness of earth, look at the moon and stars in the sky."
I started looking at the sky. Goddess withdrew the shadow of her boon from me and vanished.

In the morning, I read the big news in the newspapers that  'Goddess Laxmi has been hijacked by the richest family of the country".    

अपहरण का जश्न 

मैं अपनी प्रेमिका सुश्री लक्ष्मी से टेलीपैथी माध्यम से संवाद की कोशिश कर रहा था तो अचानक देवी लक्ष्मी की आवाज आने लगी। उनने मुझे भक्तों में सबसे ज्यादा बफादार मानकर बिना मांगे वरदान दे दिया। '' तुम जिस किसी से स्नेह करोगे, उसका घर धन-सम्पदा से भर जायेगा''। मैं सबसे नंदीग्राम गया। नंदीग्राम के अधिकारी पारा, प्रामानिक पारा सहित एक- एक पारा घूम गया। फिर मैं नर्मदा के विस्थापितों के गाँव गया। इन  सबकी गरीबी ख़त्म हो गयी। अब मैं अपने दादा के गाँव मंझौल की तरफ मुड़ा। मैंने सोचा बांसबाडी में रह रहे मगहिया मुसहरों से मिला जाय। देवी लक्ष्मी ने मेरा रास्ता रोका और मुझे डांटते हुए बहुत बुरा-भला कहा। " मैंने कहा था जिससे स्नेह करोगे, उसका घर धन-सम्पदा से भर जायेगा। स्नेह करने की भी कोई सीमा होती है न। अपना परिवार, अपने वंशज, सगे-संबंधी, कुटुंब-रिश्तेदार"। मैंने कहा- मैं अपने मुल्क के तमाम ग़रीबों से स्नेह करता हूँ तो आपको हमारे स्नेह से इर्ष्या क्यों हो रही है? देवी लक्ष्मी ने कहा- ''मैंने जिस-जिस को वरदान दिया, उस सबने हमारे वरदान से छल किया। अगर इसी तरह तुम घूम-घूम कर तमाम गरीबों की दरिद्रता हरने में लग गए तो इस देश के अमीरों का क्या होगा? गरीबों का जन्म अमीरों की सेवा के लिए होता है, जैसे मछलियों का जन्म तालाब का सौन्दर्य बढ़ाने के लिए। देखो ये गरीब अमीरों के तालाब की मछलियाँ हैं पार्थ। अपने सितारे बुलंद करना चाहते हो तो धरती की विद्रूपताओं को देखने की बजाय आकाश के चाँद-तारों से सीख लो।'' मैं आकाश निहारने लगा और लक्ष्मी अपने वरदान का साया मेरे हिस्से से छीन कर कहीं गायब हो गयी। 
सुबह के अख़बार की सबसे बड़ी खबर- देवी लक्ष्मी का मुल्क के एक सबसे बड़े धनी परिवार ने अपहरण कर लिया है।   

Occupational Diseases and Deaths of migrant workers from Bihar on Alang beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

Principal Secretary,
Labour Department,
Government of Bihar
Date: November 13, 2012 
Subject- Occupational Diseases and Deaths of migrant workers from Bihar on Alang beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat

I wish to draw your urgent attention towards the ongoing occupational deaths and diseases of migrants workers from Bihar on Alang beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat in the hazardous ship breaking activity. In this regard a letter was sent to the Chief Minister of Gujarat as well. Reference:

I submit that Labour Department ought to inquire into the number of migrant workers from the State who work in the hazardous ship breaking yards on Alang beach to seek relief for the diseased and their family.
This is required to ensure that the routine deaths of migrant workers from the State do not go unattended. It ought to consider getting the old cases of deaths of Bihari migrant workers on the Alang beach re-opened. The States' Labour Department ought to coordinate with its counterpart in Gujarat to probe the occupational diseases and deaths of Bihari Alang workers and made those who responsible for it liable for their acts of omission and commission. 
I have learnt that from workers from villages of Munger district like Katriea, Madreapur, Lakhanpur Sarganj, Wisanpur, Makwa, Mahanpur, Gharhara, Chotemaoali, Bahdepur, Chirnyabag, Baryarpur, Ratanpur, Balaahi and Purshottampur have been going to work in the hazardous industry at Alang. Workers from Gaya district go from villages like Despura, Bhadaya, Jagir, Jagir Bespura and Pahdea. Workers from villages of Saran district like Jumaighar, Jumaighar, Kedarposta, Jainawan and Domaeegarh have been working in the hazardous industry on Alang beach. 
I submit that the District Magistrates of Munger, Gaya and Chhapra may be asked to conduct a survey and submit a report about these workers.  The workers may be asked to register before leaving to work there to ensure that in case of casualty or accident District Administration can intervene to pursue their cases.    
I submit that in case of injury or death, they are rarely compensated. Narratives of local fishermen refer to dumping of workers bodies in the sea. Workers mention the use of violence by the local police against attempts of strikes by them over dispute about salary, safety, working and living conditions.A table indicating year wise deaths of migrant workers on Alang beach is attached. This may be examined as well.
Let me take the opportunity to state that it is a fit case for National Human Rights Commission and States' Human Rights Commission to take suo motto notice and ensure that the rights of migrant workers are protected.
I submit that it is the duty of your Department to gather data of the migrant workers of the State who are involved in the ship breaking activity at Alang beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat given the fact that they are globally recognized to be the most vulnerable workforce prone to highest number of accidental deaths and incurable occupational diseases.
In view of the above, I urgently seek your pro-active intervention to ensure that  migrant workers from Bihar get both medical and legal remedy besides just compensation and to ensure that the guilty officials and ship breakers are made accountable in an exemplary manner to set matters right.      
Thanking You

Yours faithfully
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
New Delhi
PIN. 110016
Phone: +91-11-26517814, Fax: +91-11-26517814
Mb: 9818089660

Secretary, Union Ministry of Labour 
Secretary, Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar
Chief Secretary, Government of Gujarat
Principal Secretary, Labour Department, Government of Gujarat 
Principal Secretary, Health Department, Government of Bihar
Chairman, Bihar State Human Rights Commission
Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi 
District Magistrate, Munger,
District Magistrate, Gaya
District Magistrate, Saran

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Who speaks for the migrant worker?

Jagmohan Chaudhuri used to live in village Sandesh of Bhojpur District of Bihar. He was married to Bijanti Kunwar, and had five children. It was not possible for him to find enough income in his village to feed his family. So he contacted a contractor in a nearby village. The contractor agreed to get him a job and took him wherever he got a tender to work. Jagmohan did not want to leave his family behind and go to distant places to work but he did not have an option as the local economy was not providing him with enough means of sustenance. His work sometimes took him to Kerala, sometimes to Mumbai and he finally ended up in Jammu where he used to do unskilled manual work in the railway factories. The money that he used to send back home kept his family alive although his wife had to work as a manual labourer as well. While working in Jammu Jagmohan fell ill and was hospitalised. He felt acute pain in his stomach. However it was not possible to diagnose exactly what had happened to him and he died in the hospital. His colleagues ensured that his body reached home for the last rites. The contractor took no responsibility for his medical costs and the cost of transporting his body to the village.

Is this an isolated incident? Perhaps it is not. As India is witnessing uneven growth with some parts witnessing more economic development than others migration of poor people from different parts of rural India to various urban centres are increasing. Huge numbers of people are moving from poor rural areas where they cannot find enough source of livelihood to urban areas in search of work. Their situation is so desperate that they do not mind living under extreme hardship, working for long hours without any job security or social security benefits. Many like Jagmohan move around different project sites to find work. Union Government and state governments have so far turned a blind eye regarding their problems.
It is not even possible to make a proper estimation of their numbers as there is no national level data on migrants who move from rural to urban centres in search of work. Nonetheless we have some data from Census 2001 and National Sample Survey. The data on migration from 2011 Census is yet to be made public. According the Census of 2001, the latest Census data on migration available at the time of writing this report, 29.9 per cent of the populations of India are migrants according to their place of birth and 30.6 per cent are migrants according to their last place of residence. This migrant population is of different types - female migration is primarily due to marriage, while male migration is primarily for employment. Migration predominantly takes place within the same state but inter-state migration has also assumed a significant proportion (13.1 per cent).
A Report by the National Sample Survey Organisation of India, based on 2007-08 data has also noted that nearly 29 per cent of India's population consist of migrants. The Census of 2001 noted that between 1991 and 2001 about 98 million people have migrated inside India. Out of this 61 million have moved to rural areas whereas 36 million have moved to urban areas. Estimate for rural to urban migration is about 20 million while about 6 million have moved from urban to rural areas. According to the NSSO study, about 20 per cent of the total migrant population in India is rural to urban migrants. According to Census 2001 the states which have received the maximum number of migrants are Maharashtra (2.3 million net migrants), Delhi (1.7 million net migrants), Gujarat (0.68 million net migrants) and Haryana (0.67 million net migrants).
The states from which maximum number of people have migrated are Uttar Pradesh (- 2.6 million) and Bihar (- 1.7 million). Thus we can safely say that the number of persons who are migrating from rural India to urban India is substantial enough to deserve attention from policy makers.
Recently, I was part of a team headed by Professor S Narayan of Institute of Social Sciences, that looked into the problems in rural areas of three districts of Bihar which are compelling the rural poor to migrate to urban areas of other states ( The study team found that the overwhelming majority of the respondents were living as agricultural labourers and/or as marginal farmers. Fifty Eight per cent of the population lives below the official poverty line. Only 9 per cent lives in concrete houses and nearly 60 per cent lives in kutccha houses, i.e. houses made of mud, straw and tin. Sixty Five per cent of the households do not possess any cultivable land. Those who have land have then in small quantities (less than an acre) and because of rise of costs it is not profitable for them to rely on agriculture. Irrigation and power facilities are poor.
Sixty five years after independence, only 10 per cent have access to credit from a bank. Hence the dependence on moneylenders is high. This means that they have to pay a substantially higher rate of interest. There is hardly any local industry or cottage industry which can provide alternative source of livelihood.
Under such circumstances almost all households in these villages have one male member who has migrated to other parts of India. The study team found that the migrants are going all over India rather than any specific area. However Delhi is the most preferred destination followed by Maharashtra and Gujarat. Kolkata is another traditionally favourite destination.
What is particularly interesting is the Union or state government plays no role in their process of migration. They rely on family and caste ties to find work, occasionally there are contractors who take them to destination points as was the case of Jagmohan Chaudhuri. The remittance that they send is vital for the survival of their families but they have to endure severe hardships, live in Dickensian conditions where they cannot take their family and have absolutely no social security to protect them if they fall ill. These workers are also rarely unionised and therefore lack bargaining power.
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNREGS) was supposed to offer relief to the workers in rural areas by providing them 100 days of guaranteed employment during the lean season. This was supposed to have reduced distress migration. There is no evidence at least in the study districts that this has been the case. In fact the overwhelming number of villagers said they hardly got any work. We have no public data on whether MGNREGS is able to offer a viable alternative to poor villagers in migration prone districts.
In fact the state of data is so bad that we do not know which the important migration prone districts in the country are and how MGNREGS is being implemented there. There is a legislation called Interstate Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979. Unfortunately it exists on paper only. Gram Panchayats, even when they are willing to help, do not know exactly what they can do.
It is time for policy makers interested in 'inclusive growth' to look into the issue with the rigour and attention that it deserves. Why can't we have a Committee like the Sachar Committee for minorities that will look at the national picture, talk to various stakeholders in different states, and arrive at policy recommendations for Government of India? If India wants to become a global player then it must develop a social security system for migrant workers.