On a petition filed by HRLN on behalf of Occupational Health and Safety Association, the Supreme Court delivered a judgment that the right to health and medical care, while in service or post-retirement, is a fundamental right of a worker. Right to health i.e. right to live in a clean, hygienic and safe environment is a right flowing from Article 21.
Occupational Health and Safety Organization has filed a writ petition in Supreme Court seeking from court to issue direction directing to Government to make guidelines for safety of workers from occupational disease. The Petitioner represented about 130 Coal Fired Thermal Power Plants(CFTPPs) in India spread over different States in the country, but no proper occupational health services facility are in place.
Colin Gonsalves, senior counsel referring to the above National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) report submitted that not much importance was given to the serious health problems being faced by the workers who are working in the thermal power plants and treatment they require as well as the payment of wages and compensation to those workers who were suffering from serious illness. He pointed out that some urgent steps should be taken to ensure the health and safety of the workers.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court Said that Right to health i.e. right to live in a clean, hygienic and safe environment is a right flowing from Article 21. Clean surroundings lead to healthy body and healthy mind. But, unfortunately, for eking a livelihood and for national interest, many employees work in dangerous, risky and unhygienic environment.
Right to live with human dignity enshrined in Article 21 derives its life breath from the Directive Principles of State Policy, particularly clauses (e) and (f) of Articles 39, 41 and 42. Those Articles include protection of health and strength of workers and just and humane conditions of work. Those are minimum requirements which must exist to enable a person to live with human dignity. Every State has an obligation and duty to provide at least the minimum condition ensuring human dignity. But when workers are engaged in such hazardous and risky jobs, then the responsibility and duty on the State is double-fold.
Occupational health and safety issues of CFTPPs are associated with thermal discharge, air and coal emission, fire hazards, explosion hazards etc. Dust emanates also contain free silica associated with silicosis, arsenic leading to skin and lung cancer, coal dust leading to black lung and the potential harmful substances. Necessity for constant supervision and to the drive to mitigate the harmful effects on the workers is of extreme importance.
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Adv. Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar