A look in the life of stone crafters and idol makers in Pindwara Rajasthan
Silicosis is a long term disease caused due to regular inhalation of crystalline silica dust usually over many years. Silica is a substance found in different types of stones. Silica dust is released in very small particles when stone crafters carve the stones using grinders, this dust can easily enter the lungs through the nose even after wearing a good quality mask and safety gear.
After entering the lungs Silica damages it by causing swelling and damaging parts of the lung which leads to areas of hardened and scarred lung tissue (fibrosis). The tissues that get scarred eventually don’t function that well. Which makes Silicosis a non-curable respiratory disease. Patients diagnosed with Silicosis cannot perform heavy tasks in their daily lives, and some in severe conditions are kept in oxygen support.According to a 2018 CAG report, a total of 8,000 Silicosis patients were detected between January 2015 and February 2017, among these 449 deaths were reported due to Silicosis. Since 2011, almost 1600 people have died due to Silicosis as per official data. According to the Rajasthan government, there are 17,000 certified Silicosis patients. While some organizations working for the welfare of these patients claim that there are 10,000 more non-registered patients of Silicosis in the state.
What is happening in Pindwara?
Workers in Pindwara claim that the machines used in factories for stone crafting are huge and hence the dust released from these machines is not as much as compared to stone carving machines such as grinders. Workers also complain about factory managers and contractors for not providing proper safety gear and masks, also a lot of these workers belong to the marginalized section of the society, so they don’t get a fair and minimum wage even after working for more than 10 hours a day in these factories.
The dust that comes out from these stones is very fine in nature at PM 2.5 and PM 10 which can easily enter the lungs and it can’t be stopped from regular masks and basic safety gear. The situation in Pindwara is so bad that every 4 out of 10 workers are diagnosed with Silicosis disease. In most families, the man of the house is diagnosed with Silicosis and can’t work to earn money, so the women and children of these households are forced to work in the same stone crafting factories as there are no other employment options in Pindwara or around the district.
The NGO’s and organizations have been protesting against these factories for many years, these organizations demand a fair wage for the Pathar Gadai Mazdoor, they also demand better working conditions, machinery, masks and better security gear so that workers are not exposed to the harmful Silica dust.