Vaishali villagers hold Mahadharana against white asbestos plant
Utkal Asbestos Company burns its factory premises, blames villagers
Utkal’s stage managed burning incident effort condemned
Vaishali/Patna/New Delhi June 14, 2012: Villagers of Vaishali’s Chaksultan Rampur Rajdhari near Panapur in Kanhauli Dhanraj Panchayat of in Goraul block held a Mahadharana against the proposed white asbestos plant of Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) company in their village. White asbestos also called chrysotile asbestos is banned in 55 countries. The pictures of the program are attached.
Villagers have been protesting against this lung cancer causing hazardous plant under the banner of Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangarsh Committee (KBJBJC) for the last 2 years. Local officials like BDO and SDO informed the villagers about Jitendra Srivastva, new DM’s assurance that the administration will examine the concerns of the villagers and would do the needful. The attached petition of the KBJBJC addressed to Deputy Chief Minister, DM and SDO was submitted to the officials. The petition demands immediate stoppage of work at the UAL’s plant.
In a dubious move, the UAL staffers burnt their own premises in broad day light and accused the peaceful villagers who were protesting there at the gate the factory about which prior information was given to the Police and the administration. This appears to be done to trap villagers into concocted cases as part of company’s design to malign the movement of the KBJBJC. There was police presence at the site of Mahadhrana. The riot control vehicles were also present.
The attached pamphlet of KBJBJC refers to Union Government’s views against asbestos. "The Government of India is considering the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos." It has noted that "Asbestosis is yet another occupational disease of the Lungs which is on an increase under similar circumstances warranting concerted efforts of all stake holders to evolve strategies to curb this menace". A concept paper by Union Ministry of Labour revealed this at the two-day 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on “Occupational Safety and Health” on 19-20th September, 2011.
It also draws Bihar Government’s attention towards Union Environment Ministry’s 19 page Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health (Para 4.3.1) on page 12 which reads: “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out”. The pamphlet referred to the resolutions of ILO and WHO which calls for the elimination of asbestos. It also referred to former Union Health Minister, Sushma Swaraj’s statement in the Parliament that exposure to asbestos fibers cause mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer on August 18, 2003. These are incurable diseases yet Bihar Govt is promoting it.
In India, its mining is technically banned but its import from other countries is yet to be banned. Trade in asbestos (dust & fibers) is also banned. Asbestos producing countries like Canada, Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Brazil are dumping their asbestos to user countries like India. Interestingly, Canada has a no home use policy. Trade, manufacturing and use of white asbestos is going on because of the corporate influence of the asbestos companies over ruling parties.
There are grave concerns about asbestos exposures resulting in public health crisis world over. In the absence of environmental and occupational health infrastructure, the passivity of the state governments cannot be deemed acceptable given the fact that health is a State subject.
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) supports the struggle of KBJBJC and appeals to Bihar Govt to take immediate steps to prevent environmental and occupational exposure to asbestos' besides non-occupational exposures to asbestos by banning use and manufacturing of white asbestos based products. It will set a healthy precedent for all the other states, the central government and neighboring countries. If a decision is taken ahead of Rio+20, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development being held during June 20-22, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where a global political document is due to adopted by the Heads of States to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit, it will enhance State’s prestige among the comity of nations.
It is noteworthy that one ex-army person, Ram Agar Singh who is in the business of supplying security guards observed at the Mahadharna that most of the guards he supplied to asbestos factories in Rajasthan became diseased.
TWA demands that state government should set up a special committee to examine the occupational health status of the migrant workers from Bihar who work in hazardous industries like asbestos based factories and provide medico-legal relief to them. The status of workers currently employed in asbestos based factories in Bihar also merit serious attention because their life is in grave danger.
TWA condemns the shady designs of the UAL company against the villagers to protect its hazardous plant at the cost of villagers’ health.
For Details: Ajit Kr Singh, Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jansangarsh Committee (KBJBJC), Vaishali, Mb: 08002903995
Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08002263335, 09818089660, E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org Web:toxicswatch.blogspot.com, banasbestosindia.blogspot.com