Taking cognisance of nearly 100 industrial accidents that took place in the over 120 cotton ginning factories in Mehsana district over the last two years,a public hearing has been fixed for February 24 at Gandhi Ashram,Kadi. Retired justice D V Joshi,former president of Industries Court,Gujarat,will hear the testimony of nearly 20 affected people.
Sudhir Katiyar,director of the Prayas Centre for Labour Research and Action,an organisation working for the welfare of cotton industry workers,said: This hearing will have representation from nearly 200 affected labourers and the report will be submitted to the Gujarat government and the human rights commission for their intervention.
Katiyar said the Labour department had been continuously apprised of the indifferent attitude of factory owners and contractors,issues relating to compensation and rehabilitation of injured workers,sexual exploitation of the women workforce,poor working conditions,negligence of safety norms and child labour. Their response has been pathetic to say the least, he said,adding: R N Patel,Principal Secretary (Labour),has even refused to send any government representative to the public hearing.
Patel,however,said: We have got no formal complaint regarding any industrial accident in the cotton ginning factories. Our department will not be represented at these public hearings.
The claim was contested by Prayas,which had submitted a detailed report,relating to the accidents,to the labour commissioner some time ago.
After the detailed report,we have been reporting every single accident case to the Director of Industrial Safety and Health in writing. Their consistent reply has been that these cases are not under their purview. With most labourers being migrant and illiterate,approaching labour courts for justice is also not possible, Katiyar added.