Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Agriculture Labor the most prone to accidents due to the nature of the job

This weekend, we climbed coconut trees to pluck coconuts, climbed an Amberella tree to shake the fruit to the ground, Climbed a thorny Orange tree to hand pluck the Oranges to prevent them from falling to the ground, and then climbed the roof of a shed that has roof tiles to pluck limes from the top of the lime tree as the limes within easy reach have been stolen by the passers by either for personal use or sale.

The above together with using the scythe to cut paddy and a whole host of manual activity on the land is highly dangerous. I still have a scar to show for cutting my finger badly when cutting paddy a few years back, as reported in my other blog (www.rajaratarala.blogspot.com) some years back.

On the other hand, this labor is the least qualified, has the least education, and least paid, performing the most dangerous work one could imagine. In turn I have mentioned I take my life into my own hands at nights when trying to close the water outlets to neighbors who have taken my water entitlements so that I can get some much needed water to my paddy fields.

With most farmers working just for themselves, and not being in companies have no recourse to any compensation for accidents in the normal course of work. I have known families being destitute because bread winner is incapacitated due to injury. There is no real social safety net to take these into account except for possibly personal savings. Thank heavens for the free medical treatment the state offers, which I have used numerous times for my staff in such situations.

We have a welfare scheme, Samurdhi, which is so politicized it does not help the needy, just the influential who use the system for personal gain. It is important that there is more emphasis placed by the agricultural departments on workplace safety, and on site training for people on the best methods. I am personally affected, as I recently was told I may be getting a serious problem of sciatica due possibly lifting large bunches of King Coconuts, sacks of paddy and rice, and also driving long distances in a vehicle that is arguably the most uncomfortable to drive. I know I have to do what I do to survive, and I don’t have dependents except my staff to worry about. The thought that I don’t have insurance to cover an eventuality is disconcerting, but to think that the majority of the people in this field are winging their lives hoping they will not have serious accident is not good enough.

Just to take an example, there is so much rubbish and broken glass thrown everywhere in the rural areas, by people who have had alcohol either in company or by themselves, going barefoot, a common trait here is just asking for trouble.

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