Wednesday, July 6, 2011

NHRC Threatens to Move SC Against Gujarat Govt

Gujarat EDN IE 06JUL2011

Express news service

AHMEDABAD/VADODARA/GANDHINAGAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has threatened to take the Gujarat government to the Supreme Court for delaying compensation payments to families of 238 silicosis victims.

In a strongly worded notice posted on its website on Tuesday, the NHRC said it “has asked (the Gujarat government) for a compliance report along with a proof of payment within six weeks, failing which it will have no alternative but to approach the Supreme Court, which is seized of the matter”.

In November 2010, the NHRC had ruled that the government pay Rs 3 lakh each to the families of these silicosis victims — most of whom are tribals from Alirajpur and Jhabua districts in Madhya Pradesh who contracted the disease while working in quartz crushing factories of Kheda and Panchmahals.

“Setting aside the contention of the Gujarat government as unjustifiable that the families of such victims can be compensated under the provisions of ESI Act, 1948 and the Workmen’s Compensation Act,1923, the Commission has held that the benefits under the statues will be in addition to the compensation recommended by the NHRC,” the commission said.

An NHRC official told The Indian Express that payments have to be made under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, adding that “the Gujarat government will be held responsible for the deaths of these workers if they do not comply with the notices”.

“Out of Rs 3 lakh, Rs 1 lakh has to be given immediately to the next of kin of the deceased and the remaining amount be kept in a fixed deposit in a bank and interest earned on the amount may be paid to the victims’ family on a monthly basis,” said the notice.

It also asked the governments of MP and Gujarat to “adopt a humane approach” instead of “towing a purely litigational angle”, adding that it expects Gujarat “to take a cue from the governments of Rajasthan, Puducherry and Madhya Pradesh on dealing with issues of relief, rehabilitation and health of silicosis patients and its victims with a more humane approach”.

Reacting to this, Gujarat Chief Secretary A K Joti said the government will examine the recommendations. “We will examine the merits of the case as per the rules and regulations and communicate with the NHRC,” he said.

Earlier, both MP and Gujarat were given time till January 2011 to pay the compensation. The MP government had reportedly agreed and paid Rs 1 lakh per victim.

But since these workers came to Godhra, the Gujarat government was asked to pay the compensation following a report sent by both the collectors of Jhabua district in MP and Panchmahals in Gujarat this year. Gujarat’s consistent argument has been that identities of the workers were yet to be established as evidence suggesting they were in Godhra was insufficient.


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