The state of Rajasthan has the highest number of mining leases in the country – more than 33,000, a majority for sandstone mines and quarries. Its sandstone is commonly carved into household and decoration items, statues, pots, and even entire temples.
But mining for this material exacts a grave human cost. Tens of thousands of people across districts, many of them workers at mines and stone units, suffer from silicosis, an incurable lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust particles.
After years of following an inconsistent policy for compensation for these patients, in 2019 the state announced a new policy that was more clearly defined, and that increased the money that was to be paid out.
“This was probably the first story I’ve reported where many of the people I spoke to likely had only a few months to live,” Rathore said. “The effort it took them to constantly find ways to receive benefits due to them, from writing letters, to using the support of local NGOs, to meeting the district administration, was starkly revealing of the government’s failure."