What all human beings aspire for is ‘freedom’. Freedom to do whatever we desire be it flying in the sky, crossing huge oceans, visiting exotic locations, taking pictures of the same, talking to our distant relatives, recuperating health-wise etc. What makes all this possible is the magical wand of ‘science’.
With the aim of developing the human race, we see a new phenomenon in this scientific era in ‘Nanotechnology’. Nanotechnology is a set of powerful techniques for custom designing useful new materials by manipulating chemical structures at the sub-atomic level. Nano- particles have enormous surface area relative to their mass resulting in special properties and behaviors. This has led to the use of various nano-particles for manufacturing new products, which are useful and advantageous for human beings. Though wondrous, the concern here is that are we negating the other side of the coin and looking only at the advantages of this technology.
The technology per say is used for the development of human beings, but is this catering to the needs of each individual or is it beneficial for some at the cost of few? If the story is about the latter, then it is surely a point to worry.
Nanotechnology promises to improve the quality of human life, but it has also provoked concerns about adverse health effects on workers, the environment and the consumers. The most prone section of the society to such occupational hazards is the labor class that is exposed to engineered nano-particles like Hexavalent Chromium. The technology is yet in its initial step. So we are only looking at the positive aspects of the technology. But what should be the concern is to see whether it is suitable for all or not. Thus the drawbacks of the technology are merely in its speculative stage and thus the exact effects can only be imagined.
India is a signatory of International Labour Organization (ILO), and laborers account a major part of the population; yet the irony is that occupational health is treated as only a secondary issue in our country.
Every laborer has a right to health at his workplace. We must understand that gone are those days when a laborer was at the plight of the employer, and could be subjected to any hazard as long as he is monetarily compensated for his work. Now, the growing concerns of the union leaders have shown a trend of providing the laborers their right to health at the workplace.
Nanotechnology has the potential to cater to the needs of everyone and trigger the pace of development of human race. But there are hurdles in its way which, if removed, will prove to be a boon for society. As of now, what I feel can be a possible solution to this will be extending and proper implementation of the Factories Act, 1948. The Factories Act, 1948 was enacted with the objective of protecting workers from being subjected to unduly long hours of bodily strain or manual labour. It lays down precautions to be taken for their safety and for the prevention of accidents. Chapter IV A is the closest any labour legislation comes to as regards occupational safety from nano-particles. Certain amendments, if made, may incorporate hazards of nano-particles as well. And we must not forget that we always need a law before a good law. This is not the point where we can stop; we should take it forward to creating new scientific inventions and tools which will be equipped with more modern technologies to tackle this problem. The aim should be extracting maximum benefit of it without disadvantaging any section of the society and prejudicing any person’s rights.