February 11, 2010  |  Download PDF  |  Share

Hearts of Darkness

Workers in India, including children, will die young grinding gemstones for Valentine’s Day

Table of Contents


Executive Summary

  • More than 2,000 men, women and children in India have died miserable deaths due to silicosis, while polishing gemstones for export to the U.S. and Europe.
  • Agate and other semi-precious gemstone hearts, beads pendants, earrings, bracelets, ornaments—and even rosary beads and the Star of David are made in India.
  • Workers are paid just 17 ½ to 33 ½ cents an hour to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, squatting in front of primitive grinding wheels, using their fingers to press agate and other semi-precious stones against the wheels to shape them. In the process they are covered with silica dust.
  • Many workers start when they are 12 or 13 years old. The National Labor Committee met an eight-year-old boy who was covered with silica dust as he worked shaping agate beads.
  • The child workers are paid 11 to 13 ½ cents an hour.
  • Thirty percent of all gemstone grinders will die of silicosis.
  • Six to ten percent of non-working family members and neighbors will also die of silicosis due to exposure to the airborne silica dust.
  • Scores of others are reduced to skin and bones, unable to walk and struggling to breathe.
  • When poor workers borrow money from their “trader”—who supplies the raw stones, organizes the manufacture and export of gemstones—they become “bonded labor.” If the worker dies, his wife is asked to take over the grinding. If she dies, her children will be asked to do so.
  • Silicosis is 100 percent preventable. But without proper occupational safeguards, with continued exposure, silicosis becomes 100 percent fatal.
  • It does not have to be this way. With simple technology—a wet grinding process in combination with exhaust ventilation systems can drastically reduce exposure to silica dust.
  • The government of India has also failed to enforce every single one of its labor laws to protect the lives of the agate grinders.
  • The National Labor Committee is calling upon the American people to sign a letter to the International Colored Gemstone Association, based in New York City and Idar-Oberstein, Germany, urging that we act together to end the exploitation, misery and wreckless homicide of India’s gemstone grinders. We are also asking the U.S. Government to help.

Preface: Valentine’s Day Massacre

By Charles Kernaghan

How could something as beautiful as a gemstone cause so much suffering and death?

There has always been a fascination in the United States with the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Books have been written and movies made depicting what happened that Valentine’s Day morning, Thursday, February 14, 1929, on the North Side of Chicago. Seven members of the Bugs Moran gang were lined up in a garage and gunned down by Al Capone’s rival gang, some of whom were dressed as policemen. According to the coroner’s report, seventy machinegun bullets and two shotgun blasts were fired at the Bugs Moran gang members.

But not a single newspaper article, not a word, let alone a movie, has been written in the United States to expose a massacre going on now in India, where over 2,000 men, women and children have died a miserable death polishing gemstones for export to the U.S.

This Valentine’s Day, heart-shaped agate and rose quartz jewelry and ornaments made in India are likely to sell very well. In India, the workers who grind and shape these gemstones will continue to breathe in the fine silica dust that will destroy their lungs and lead to their deaths.

What makes this so wrong is that silicosis is 100 percent preventable. But without proper occupational safeguards, over time silicosis becomes 100 percent fatal.

The story of gemstone grinding in India is one of exploitation, misery, deprivation and the death of thousands of poor people. It is also a story of neglect by the Government of India.

Why is it that we know so little in the United States? We purchase all sorts of products without any idea of who made them, where and under what conditions. Shouldn’t it be a natural instinct to want to know? It’s our world, but we do not ask.

It does not have to be this way.

There is great urgency here. In 2009, in the area around Khumbhat City alone, 29 more agate grinders died of silicosis. Since the beginning of 2010, two more workers have been killed. Scores of others have difficulty walking even a few yards due to shortness of breath.

It would not cost very much to install proper exhaust ventilation systems combined with a wet grinding methods that would save the lives of the agate workers and their families. It really comes down to whether or not enough of us will raise our voices demanding that the jewelry companies importing agate and other gemstones from India clean up their operations. We should also ask our government to raise this issue with the Government of India, and to help.

Gemstones of Death

Mr. Naran Dhula Bhil

We met Mr. Naran Dhula Bhil on February 20, 2009, at the tuberculosis hospital in Dharmaj, in the state of Gujarat, India. It was in Gujarat that Mahatma Gandhi led the great salt march that helped win India’s Independence.

Naran started grinding at age 11 and lost over 60 pounds during his struggle with silicosis. He died on April 14th, 2009.

Mr. Bhil was coughing a lot as he sat in bed. He was very weak and had difficulty walking. He could not lift anything that weighed more than five pounds. Over the past six or seven months, he had lost almost half his weight, dropping from 132 to just 70 pounds. He said he was about 32 years old, but he looked so frail. He had been in the hospital for the last week and his hope was that he would get well and everything would be all right. But that was not to be. Mr. Bhil died on April 14, 2009.

Naran Dhula Bhil did not die of tuberculosis. He did not die of any natural cause. He died of silicosis, an occupational disease which is 100 percent preventable and—without proper safeguards—is also 100 percent fatal.

Mr. Bhil did not have to die. His death is a story of greed, indifference and the ignorance of consumers, who know so little—nothing really—about where and how the goods they buy are made.

Mr. Bhil started working when he was just 11 years old. No one told him how dangerous his work was. He was a grinder, shaping and polishing gemstones into hearts, pendants, rings and beads, and into egg, mango and pencil-shaped ornaments. He squatted all day in front of a grinding wheel of emery stone which was driven by electricity. Using his fingers, he held agate and other semi-precious stones against the grinding wheel to give them their shape. In seven hours of work, he could grind 100 to 150 stones a day, depending upon their size, for which he was paid $1.00 a day, or 15 ½ cents an hour. Mr. Bhil earned less than a penny for each stone he ground and shaped. And each stone he worked threw off silica dust, which would eventually kill him. He worked and lived among stones and dust.

By the time he was twenty, he knew his work was killing him and that he would die early, so he decided not to marry.

He could not remember why he borrowed the money. But when he was young, he asked the trader, who supplied the gemstones and paid him a piece rate for each stone he shaped, for an advance of 15,000 rupees, or $325. Once he borrowed the money, he was “bonded” to the trader. No records were kept. Nothing was written down, and the boss never informed him of how much he had paid off. He did not know if he was paying interest or not. But once he took the advance, the trader cut his wages from between $1.51 and $1.73 a day to just $1.08. He was now “bonded” to the trader, which meant he could not quit or look for other work until he paid off his debt in full.

Mr. Bhil told us that in the 1990s the grinding shop where he worked had 35 grinders, but now just four or five are left. Everyone else is either sick or dead. Ramish died when he was 35 years old. Gunpot died recently. Mr. Bhil said, “So many have died.”

When asked, Naran Dhula Bhil said he had no idea where the gemstones he ground and polished went or the price they were sold for. The trader never told the workers.

When Mr. Bhil died, he did not have a single penny to his name.

No records have been kept. But a conservative estimate is that Mr. Bhil is just one or more than 2,000 gemstone grinders in India who have needlessly died a miserable deaths after years of suffering from silicosis. It does not have to be this way.

The gemstones these workers make are exported to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Japan and other wealthy countries. There is even a chance that some of us own gemstones that Mr. Naran Bhil made.

Mr. Haresh Mafatbhai Parmar

Haresh died from silicosis on June 11th, 2009 after 20 years of gemstone grinding.

When we met him during our visit to Shakarpur in February 2009, Mr. Haresh Mafatbhai Parmar was lying on the ground in front of the small one-room home he and his wife shared with an uncle, who was blind. Mr. Parmar was terribly emaciated, really just skin and bones. He could not walk and he was struggling to breathe even though he was lying down motionless.

He told us he started grinding gemstones when he was 13 or 14 years old. In July 2008, when he was about 32, he got sick. He was told he had tuberculosis. He spent time in the hospital, received treatment and was released on February 13, 2009. He was waiting for more medicine to arrive. He was struggling to breathe as he explained that both his mother and his father had died seven years ago from grinding gemstones.

Haresh Mafatbhai Parmar died on June 11, 2009, less than four months after our meeting. He did not die of tuberculosis. He died of silicosis after years of breathing in silica dust while grinding gemstones. The dust ate away and destroyed his lungs.

Raman Lallubhai Vaghela

Seventeen Cents an Hour to do One of the Most Dangerous Jobs in the World

Raman was one of the first gemstone workers to stand up to the gemstone traders about controlling the silica dust. He died on September 8th, 2009.

Raman Lallubhai Vaghela also started grinding agate when he was just 12 or 13 years of age. For 20 years his specialty was creating beautiful heart-shaped pendants and earrings. He was skilled and fast and it took him just five or six minutes to shape each heart, for which he was paid a penny and a half. If he ground 11 stones an hour, he earned 17 cents. Working seven hours he could take home $1.19 a day. He could have earned a little more, but he had taken an advance from the trader, borrowing 32,000 rupees, just $692.50. Yet for the rest of his life he was “bonded” to the trader until he could pay off his debt. To pay off his debt, his wage was cut in half, from 33 ½ cents to just 17 cents an hour.

Raman worked on 77 gemstones a day, 462 a week and 24,000 a year. In his twenty years of work, he shaped nearly 500,000 stones. To shape the hearts, every gemstone he held threw dust off the emery wheel, onto his face, lips, ears, and hair. It settled onto his clothes and the ground around him. He breathed in the dust every day and so did his neighbors as the dust spread beyond the workshop. After 20 years of breathing in the silica dust, Mr. Vaghela was too weak to work. He was constantly short of breath and could barely walk more than a few steps. He lost weight and was as thin as a pencil. He did not have the strength to lift even the most modest weight. This is what happens with silicosis. By the time Raman Vaghela felt the symptoms, it was too late. The silica dust had clogged his lungs, and there is no cure.

In 2007, Raman stopped working. He underwent treatment for tuberculosis and took some medicines. At times he felt a little better and actually gained a pound or two. But deep down, he told us, he knew that no one could help him now. “Everyone knows about the dangers,” he went on, “but we’re helpless. There are no other jobs.”

When we met Raman in February 2009, he was terribly thin and exhausted. His eyes were bloodshot. Holding them in his hand, he showed us some of the beautifully colored agate hearts he had shaped. When we asked him, he said he really did not know where the hearts went, but he imagined they went out of the country.

Raman Lallubhai Vaghela died on September 8, 2009. He was a special person. He was an artist who painted beautiful images on the walls of his parents’ home. Raman was also among the first to stand up and rally other agate workers to fight back to demand that the traders install exhaust systems to control the deadly silica dust.

Before he died, he told us that the trader he had worked for for 20 years had never stopped by even once to see how he was doing.

Children work on gemstones that will kill them

This boy is 10 years old and has been grinding for 2 years. He works for 4 hours every day.

A deadly dust of silica lies on the child's hair, eyebrows, ears, nose, hands, arms, and clothing.

When we visited another village where we had heard that gemstones were being shaped, we came across a young boy grinding agate. He told us he was 10 years old and had been grinding agate for the last two years. In fact, he looked more like eight, in which case he may have started grinding agate when he was just six years old.

The boy sat on the opposite side of the grinding wheel from a young man. Both were grinding small stones that would eventually be sold in the United States and other countries as beaded necklaces and bracelets. As they shaped the small beads, the dust flew everywhere. You could see the silica dust on the child’s hair, on his eyebrows, ears, nose, on his hands and arms and on his clothing. In fact, they were sitting in the deadly dust, which was everywhere. The boy said he worked half a day, for four hours, and earned 54 cents, or about 13 ½ cents an hour. The worker across from the child, who looked like he was in his early 20s, said he earned 40 rupees for half a day, or 22 cents an hour.

These children hold out their swollen, calloused hands. They earn 11 cents an hour.

A very young girl and boy came over proudly, holding out their hands to show us their swollen, cracked and calloused finger tips. These children also ground gemstones every night for about an hour after the adults finished work for the day. They earned 11 cents an hour. It turned out that they were the brother and sister of the boy at the grinding wheel with whom we had just spoken.

The grinding process is primitive. The shaft of the wheel is attached to a canvas belt which is turned by a small electric motor. The grinding wheel wobbles as it spins and makes a racket. To shape the beads, the workers, including children, use their fingers to press the stones against the wheel, which creates friction, heat and sparks, and constant vibration, which is why workers’ fingers are swollen and cracked.

The father of the three children was working no more than 15 feet from where his young son was grinding—using mud and straw to add another room to their small hut. We asked the father if he knew how dangerous grinding was, especially for young children, and if he knew that if his son kept working on the grinding wheel it would kill him. “Yes, I know,” the father said, “But what can I do? We are landless peasants with no money.”

We have seen a lot of nasty and vicious things in the global economy, but this struck us as particularly sad. The father was not a bad man, but he and his family were caught in a deadly trap of poverty and misery, with no way out. If you have no other way to eat, you will take a job. Even if it kills you.

Another child worker in the village with swollen, calloused hands

Almost immediately, we ran into another child worker who looked 12 or 13 years old at most. He was not working this day because his fingers were swollen and hurt too much.

Another young man told us that he had dropped out of school when he was in the seventh grade after his father—a gemstone grinder—died two years before. The son had started grinding gemstones when he was 13.

Gemstone workers taking a break, covered in deadly silica dust

Everywhere we turned, there were stories of sickness and death. Munival was sitting hunched over in front of his house. He was sick with silicosis, and like the others, he had to strain to breathe and was too weak to walk. His three sons had been in school until the eighth grade, but now they were working.

Munival told us that power lines and electricity had reached the village in 1984. The very next day a trader showed up and introduced gemstone grinding to the village people, telling them they would earn much more this way than in agriculture. The trader never said a word about how dangerous the work was. Looking back, Munival estimates that 15 people in his village have died from grinding—including a couple who left two children orphaned. There are some 12 or 13 widows, and four other workers are sick like him.

An old man told us his son died in 2006 after being sick for four or five years. He had worked grinding gemstones for at least ten years. In 2005 his son had received some “TB medicine.” But it did not help. Another son, who also worked as a grinder, is now sick and “going down hill fast,” the father said. The third son has dropped agate grinding and has gone back to agricultural work so he “can live longer.” In agriculture, a worker can earn 40 rupees a day, or 87 cents, while an experienced and fast gemstone grinder can earn up to $2.16 a day.

This gemstone grinder is now too weak to walk further than a few yards.

A 39-year-old man told us he had also worked as a grinder for the last 22 years, working four hours a day, seven days a week, until he fell sick two years ago. Like the others, he is short of breath, has chest pains and is too weak to walk any further than a few yards. He went to a local hospital for help, but the hospital did not have the necessary radiology equipment to check for silicosis. In the 22 years he worked for the trader, his piece rate had never increased.

Yet another grinder, Mr. Govind Dahya Rathod, explained, “Back then we had no idea of the danger, and now we are suffering.” He had no idea what would happen to his wife and four children “when I die.”

In 2009, twenty-nine gemstone grinders died of silicosis in the Khambhat area alone

Where Can You Find Agate Gemstones? Everywhere!

There are over 600 bead stores across the United States that sell agate jewelry—much of it from India. There are at least a dozen bead societies in the U.S. and Canada that hold monthly meetings, and 27 websites dedicated to beads.

Novica—in association with National Geographicsells heart-shaped gemstone earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings and pendants all made of Indian agate, onyx, amethyst and lapis. Nor is this jewelry cheap: agate heart-shaped (rose of justice) earrings retail for $57.95. Novica reports that its agate is certified by The Global Compact and Green America/“Approved for people and planet.” If Novica has, in fact, developed a method to safely shape agate, they should share this model with the agate industry and government of India. At least 2,000 gemstone grinders in India have perished of silicosis over the last several decades.

For Valentine’s Day, the Phoenix Orion Gift Emporium is offering various heart shaped stones made in India. For example, it’s Chevron Amethyst Heart retails for $39.95 and is “beautifully hand cut and polished in India.” The heart-shaped stones are said to “foster integration of the emotions, enhancing creativity…reinforce decisiveness and enhance leadership qualities.” They are also a “well-known healing stone.”

Star of David pendants are made from Indian agate, as are Anglican and Catholic rosaries (offered by the Episcopal Bookstore and the Catholic Company). The Anglican prayer beads made of agate retail for $34.95.

Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City sells are deco marcasite and black agate drop earrings retailing for $150, capped onyx necklaces ($175) and amethyst stone necklaces ($110), though no country of origin is specified.

The Rainforest Site sells Indian agate necklaces for $29.95.

If we took just a few minutes to look around our homes, it would be surprising how many agate hearts, bracelets, necklaces, rings and beautifully colored and polished balls, eggs, ming trees, figurines and ornaments of agate and other semi-precious stone we would find.

Agate is everywhere. But have we ever stopped to think where, by whom and under what conditions these beautiful gemstones were made?

What is Agate?

Agate and other semi-precious gemstones—including onyx, amethyst and lapis—are forms of quartz and are found only in volcanic areas of the world. “Agate forms when gas bubbles trapped in solidifying lava become filled with alkali and silica-bearing waters, which coagulate in to a gel. The alkali attacks the iron in the surrounding lava and bands of resulting iron hydroxide are created in the gel, which loses water and crystallizes, leaving the bands intact.” ( Agate is a mineral containing 60 to 90 percent crystalline silica.

It is believed that agate has been mined and processed in India for the last 2,500 years. Besides India, agate is found in the United States, Italy, Uruguay and Brazil.

Export figures are dated, but the Indian Bureau of Mines reports that between 1998 and 2002, India exported 686 tons of agate. Over that same period, the largest proportion of Indian agate was exported to the United States, followed by Germany, Italy, Japan, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

In 2008, the United States important at least $100 million worth of semi-precious stones from India.

Turning Rocks into Gemstones

At least six processes are necessary to turn agate raw agate into gemstones:


1. The stones are first dried in the sun for several days.

2. Then they are “fired” – heated in pits in the ground.

Size reduction

3. Workers known as “chippers” use small hammers made of ox horn to break the stones into small pieces. The workers do not wear safety goggles. The most common accidents are flying chips of stone striking their eyes and cut fingers.

4. For further reduction, the stones are put into a wooden drum and “tumbled” for two or three days, around the clock. The process is noisy, and very dusty. Usually the drums are housed in a small room, but the fine silica dust easily escapes into the neighborhood.

Polishing and grinding

5. Workers shape the stones by pressing them against a revolving emery grinding wheel, which is by far the most dangerous part of the production process. Grinders breathe in the deadly silica dust each day, which also affects the surrounding community.

6. To give the stones luster, they are rotated in a metal drum filled with water, emery gravel, aluminum oxide and other chemicals.

In the single month of February 2009, largely driven by Valentine’s Day, the 27,484 jewelry stores across the United States sold $2.2 billion in merchandise.

U.S. Census Bureau, Monthly Retail Trade Report

Agate: An Industry of Death

No one knows exactly how many agate grinders have died of silicosis in India over the last several decades, but a very conservative estimate by the respected People’s Training and Research Centre in Vadodara puts the loss of life at well over 2,000 grinders. The People’s Training and Research Center, established in 1992, is an independent non-governmental organization specializing in occupational health and safety standards.

There are two centers in India for the processing of gemstones. One is the city of Khambhat in the state of Gujarat, and the other is in Jaipur, in the state of Rajastan. Jaipur is by far the largest center for the gem and jewelry in India.

This research report focuses almost exclusively on Khambhat, where an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 workers are employed in the agate industry. This includes some 300 small grinding units where 600 to 700 grinders are routinely exposed to deadly levels of silica dust.

In Jaipur, there are an estimated 500 to 525 grinding units, employing some 2,000 to 2,500 agate grinders. Though initial research shows slightly lower levels of silica dust in Jaipur, serious health and safety violations persist there as well. Industrial hygiene studies found grinders in Jaipur were still exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust, along with noise pollution, exposure chemicals and ergonomic violations.

Based on decades of research, the government’s National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) confirms that 30 percent of India’s grinders will succumb to silicosis. Even more shocking, the NIOH studies find that silicosis will strike six to ten percent of non-occupational family members and neighbors, including children, who reside near the grinding units. The prevalence of airborne silica dust that drifts over large neighboring areas is more widespread than previously thought. (Some studies estimate even higher rates of silicosis—up to 38.2 percent among grinders and 13.3 percent among non-occupational family members and neighbors.)

The village of Shakapur on the outskirts of Khambhat graphically illustrates how deadly agate grinding can be for both workers and the general population.

Shakapur has an overall population of 7,052 people. The estimated 200 agate grinding units operating in Shakapur are believed to be exposing 68 percent of the general population—those who live in the vicinity of the grinding units—or some 4,800 people to excessive levels of silica dust. Following the National Institute of Occupational Health’s research, this means that 30 percent of the 200 grinders in Shakapur—60 grinders—will suffer from silicosis, with many of them dying prematurely. The effect on the general population will be even more extreme, with an estimated six to ten percent of the non-occupational family members and neighbors in Shakapur—288 to 480 people—also contracting silicosis. This means that in the single village of Shakapur, on the outskirts of Khambhat, 348 to 540 people can be expected to suffer from silicosis.

When electricity first arrived in Shakapur in 1961, the agate grinding industry was born. It was just ten years later, in 1971, that agate grinders began dying. Those dying were young men just 20 to 25 years of age.

In January 1988, the people of Shakapur were among the first to collect the names of 200 agate workers who had died of silicosis, leaving behind 266 orphans. At the same time, 48 former grinders were too sick to walk, let alone work. It was only a matter of time before they withered away, dying of silicosis.

It is very possible that far more than 2,000 agate workers have died of silicosis since 1961 when electricity first came to the rural villages, allowing motor driven grinding wheels. For decades, no records were kept. Workers falling ill and dying from silicosis were thought to have tuberculosis. The death of family members and neighbors was for years not connected to the agate grinding. Even today, in the Khambhat area, the government still does not have the radiology equipment necessary to diagnose and monitor workers with silicosis.

The National Institute of Occupational Health is asking the government of India to declare that the agate grinding industry is in violation of the International Labour Organization’s convention outlawing the worst forms of child labor.

Dusty Death

Airborne silica dust particles—usually smaller than 7 microns—are capable of reaching the deepest parts of the lungs and causing silicosis. The silica particles induce fibrosis in the lungs, so that normal tissue is replaced with non-functional fibrous tissue. With continued exposure to silica dust the affected lung tissue develops into pulmonary massive fibrosis. When this occurs, the grinders are no longer able to walk. They suffer from extreme weight loss, leaving them weak and straining to breathe. They also suffer from chest pain. Once pulmonary massive fibrosis is present, it is only a matter of time before the person dies a very painful death.

The Perfect Trap: Agate Traders Get Away with Murder

The powerful agate and gemstone traders in India would like us to believe that there is no such thing as an organized gemstone industry. Rather, agate grinding is an informal “cottage industry”—with small grinding units being run out of people’s homes, where family members help and perhaps a neighbor or two are involved. With this slight of hand, defining agate grinding as a “cottage industry,” the traders have stripped the agate grinders of any legal protections under Indian law. There are no labor laws in India that protect “cottage industry” workers. There is no minimum wage law, no compensation for injuries, no healthcare, no social security benefits or pensions. “Cottage industries” do not fall under India’s Factories Act, which is the principal law government the health and safety, welfare and minimum wage rights of workers.

The traders have promoted this lie for the last 50 years, which has allowed them to get away with exploitation and even death.

The traders in fact control an organized agate and gemstone industry. They buy the stones and have them chipped into small pieces. It is the traders and their middlemen who outsource the agate grinding to the villages, supplying the cut stone and setting the piece rate. Often the traders extend advances to the agate grinders, which in effect “bonds” them to a particular trader. It is the trader who has the agate and other gemstones made into jewelry and exports the finished product to the United States or Europe.

The single most important step that must be taken to end the exploitation and preventable death of agate grinders is for the government of India to immediately extend the Factories Act to the agate grinders in order to guarantee that their legal labor rights will finally be protected.

What Must Be Done

The following demands originate from the agate workers in India and the People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), which has accompanied the agate workers in their struggle for justice over the last 17 years. If it were not for the dedicated work of Mr. Jagdish Patel, PTRC’s director, people across the United States, Europe and Asia would have no idea of the suffering and death endured by India’s agate grinders.

  1. The Government of India should immediately extend the Factories Act to guarantee the legal labor rights of the tens of thousands of people working in the agate and gemstone industry, especially the agate grinders. The agate and gemstone traders must be held legally accountable as employers to adhere to the Factories Act.
  2. The agate and gemstone workers must have the legal right to organize, which would guarantee their right to form larger worker cooperatives, which would then have the power to negotiate wages and other benefits with the traders or buyers.
  3. All agate grinding should be done under safe conditions. The Indian government’s National Institute of Occupational Health, in consultation with the agate grinders and the People’s Training and Research Centre, could be tasked with developing safe methods to grind agate. The National Institute of Occupational Health has already done consider able research on this, and it is believed that a process of wet grinding in combination with an effective exhaust system can drastically reduce exposure to the deadly silica dust. There is no reason that agate grinders should continue to die.
  4. Current agate grinders who are suffering from silicosis, along with non-occupational victims of silicosis, must immediately be provided with medical care, compensation for their illness and a living stipend so they can maintain their families. The traders can be assessed fees proportional to their sales of agate and other gemstones.


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