Ahmed Patel seeks safe working environment, facilities for Alang laborers

New Delhi

On the eve of Labour day , Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat and senior Congress leader Shri Ahmed Patel today raised the issue of pitiable conditions of labourers at Alang Ship-breaking yard in Gujarat in Rajya Sabha.

Ahmed Patel said “While on labour day it’s imperative to recognize and appreciate the contribution of workers in nation building , we also need to raise issues pertaining to their safety and working environment” .

He informed the House about lack of proper toilets in the Ship-breaking yard. He requested the government to ensure that “Swachch Bharat” even reaches the workers in Alang. He also expressed his concern as to how asbestos has been affecting the health of workers and in the past 32 years over 400 people have died in the world’s largest ship breaking yard.

Full text of statement:

Sir,

I would like to raise the issue of the condition of the workers in Alang’s Shipbreaking yards.

In a study commissioned by the National Human Rights Commission, it was found that the costs to workers health and the environment were alarming. There are close to 35,000 migrant workers, but the authorities have only installed 12 showers and 6 toilets, meaning most workers would have to defecate in the open. Let us hope that Swach Bharat reaches here.

The yards have taken the lives of 470 people since 1983. These figures are at best a rough estimate, as the impact of the long-term exposure to chemicals as a result of ship-breaking was not taken into consideration. The National Institute of Occupational Health would that 15 out of 94 examined workers showed signs of disease caused by working with asbestos. The health facilities there are also understaffed and under-stocked. This is a major concern, as the work that is done is Alang can result in serious injuries, which require immediate medical attention.

The workers don’t receive any proper safety training and are not given proper protective gear. Very often these workers don’t receive their wages on time. The study has brought to notice what we have always known, that the conditions in these yards are terrible for the worker, and the regulators have all turned a blind eye.

I urge the Government to take necessary steps to ensure the basic rights of these labourers are safeguarded, and that the most basic human dignities are afforded to these people.

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