Unmindful of the non-existent occupational health infrastructure in India, Mallikarjun Kharge, Minister of Labour & Employment told India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) meeting Organized by ILO in Geneva that "Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India can provide institutional support in the areas of Labour Policy, Occupational Safety and Health, Mines Safety and Skills Development" on 14th June 2011.
He claimed that "We also launched our National Policy on Safety Health and Environment at Workplace Policy and we are in the process of laying down a road map for its effective implementation. This area can be of much interest to the other developing countries." The fact is that this 11 page Policy appears to be one of the most insincere policy of Government of India. Section 4.6 of the Policy deals with "Occupational safety and health skills development", it claims that it will build upon "advances already made through employer and employee initiative for providing safe and healthy working conditions." This is a bizarre claim because employers have been quite callous about the workers health especially in the hazardous industries.
The Policy talks of "establishing occupational health services aimed at protection and promotion of health of employee and improvement of working conditions and by providing employee access to these services in different sectors of economic activities." While this is required, the Ministry of Labour has not taken any initiative for the protection of establishing occupational health services. In fact none of our 300 medical colleges can claim that provide such services. There is a need to include special occupational and environmental health courses in the medical education but the Ministry has not taken any step in this direction. Its concern remains confined to seminars and conferences where mere lip-service is paid to worker's health.
Both the 41 page National Health Policy and the 58 page National Environment Policy have a section on occupational and environmental health, this National Policy on Safety Health and Environment at Workplace Policy does not even acknowledge them. Labour Ministry has failed to seek collaboration with the Health Policy and Environment Ministry in particular.
The Minister forgot to reveal that there several ILO Conventions pertaining to workers health which it has not ratified. It seems that the Labour Minister was misled by some vested interests about the health situation of workers which has been highlighted in a paper titled "Strategies and policies deteriorate occupational health situation in India:A review based on social determinant framework" published in Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health Medicine. The rightly underlines the structural reasons.
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Several unsupportable statements have been made (such as "non-existent occupational health infrastructure in India", "claim that 'We also launched our National Policy on Safety Health and Environment at Workplace Policy'", that "advances already made for providing safe and healthy working conditions is a bizarre claim").
Establishing occupational health services at places of employment (which is what ILO convention 112 spoke of) is grotesquely confused with the need for medical colleges to provide such services, and need to include special occupational and environmental health courses in the medical education.
Readers will be aware that occupational health infrustructure is not "non-esistent" in our country, though it may fall far short of the ideal situation.
It is not clear what the title "Labour Minister Misled on Occupational Health Situation" means - prima facie, it seems to indicate that someone (no names or even aspersions in the post) misled the Minister on the alleged actual state of affairs, but the tone of the post is that the Minister misled the IBSA meeting.
Perhaps the author of the post will clarify who misled whom, and what needs to be done about it.
OHS / BHEL / Trichy
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