Haushala Prasad Mishra

Ashoka Fellow
Satellite, India
Fellow Since 1994


This profile was prepared when Haushala Prasad Mishra was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994.
The New Idea
Haushala Prasad Mishra has mounted one of India's first citizen-sector-led occupational health campaigns. Starting among Ahmedabad's textile mills, Prasad has elaborated a multi-faceted campaign by organizing and educating workers, corralling medical practitioners and institutions, providing factory managers with cost-effective solutions, guiding public safety inspectors and policy makers and, when necessary, dramatizing the hazards workers face through the media. His initiative has made the killer lung disease byssinosis–whose presence was once hidden in medical textbooks and surveys–a priority issue for workers in the textile industry, one of India's largest.

Prasad uses different "sales pitches" and even different vehicles to get his messages about the disease across.

As the founder of a shop floor workers' movement for occupational safety, he teaches textile workers about the cause, symptoms and effects of byssinosis and demonstrates ways of making their workplaces safer. This knowledge helps workers to recognize and stand up for their rights by pursuing concrete ways to develop a safer workplace.He has also created an independent public interest organization, Mill Kamdar Swasthya Suraksha Mandal, whose goal is to improve the conditions in which textile workers are currently forced to work. Prasad says, "Our focus on byssinosis was prompted by the trade union movement's inability to prioritize workers' health and safety." Mill Kamdar is represented by five volunteers from every textile mill of Ahmedabad, formerly known as the Manchester of India because of its large number of textile mills.

Prasad convinced the Employees' State Insurance Scheme of the validity of textile worker ill health, resulting in nine workers receiving compensation for the first time in 1991. The process of obtaining compensation is becoming regularized. He also convinced Employees' State Insurance officials to provide medicine to byssinotic patients for as long as they have the need.

A major result of his negotiations with the government is the creation of a public occupational health center that is the first of its kind in Ahmedabad. In addition, Prasad has persuaded the government to introduce a Byssinosis Control Program and has sought the help of the National Institute of Occupational Health to adequately train doctors to recognize and provide treatment for the disease.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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