‘If you are poor you are not likely to live long’ – moving away from this

Swathi Subramaniam, PRIA

The city level studies conducted by PRIA shows that after food, beverages and intoxicants, healthcare is   the second highest expenditure component of the city’s urban poor.  The study also shows that the urban poor in slums comprises of both unskilled and skilled workers.

Occupational hazards in urban cities is a growing symptom, be it an urban poor, or an urban middle class working in offices. With increasing urbanization, competition, increasing comfort etc the occupational diseases are going to increase only. The differences between the occupational diseases of urban poor and urban rich and middle class are listed below:


The mix of workplaces and nearby settlements increase the health risks its impact remains for generations when major industrial accidents occur (example Bhopal Gas Tragedy).

Health Inequity

Health inequity can only be minimized by leveling up the living conditions of the urban poor. The major areas predominantly being the sanitation, water and air. Improving the living conditions is one of the key social determinants of health which where development is all about collectivization.

For developing good health conditions in the work place the following points came to my mind

Perspective of the Industry the following mechanism should be undertaken

  • Industry should provide methods of training mechanism for its skilled laborers.
  • The industries should be moved away from the residents
  • The skilled informal urban settlers should work in environment friendly workplace.
  • Provide identity cards for the workers.
  • An ideal work place should include

i.        Crèches for laborers

ii.        Education for the children

iii.        Proper Sanitation facilities

iv.        Warning sign boards

v.        Other facilities etc

vi.        Continuous monitoring of medical facilities of the people.

Perspective of an Individual

Personal Protective Equipment

  • An enforcing authority for Occupational Health check up
  • Awareness programmes for factories which are more prone to accidents.

Perspectives from the Community

  • Job security

An individual will be able to function as skilled laborer only when he gets job security and satisfaction. Today the workers are forced to work irrespective of their injury because of lack of alternative jobs. This endangers his life and his long term sustainability. In such industries there should be special provision for the laborer and his family members.

  • Education and awareness should be there among the people of community
  • Frequent or monthly Medical check ups should be there so that early symptoms of occupational health can be diagnosed and the skilled laborer could be saved from loss of life.

Perspectives from the Government

  • Identity card for workers
  • The authority should have the repository of database of informal laborers which can enable monitoring
  • There should be time limit given for compensation in case of any injuries

i.        From the Diagnostic point of view, State and District level should have Occupational Health Centres.

ii.        A separate body of authority at State and District level should be developed. There should be a provision for a separate special fund for such compensation.


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