Public health researcher refusal to take award in protest against 'Industrial Crimes' welcomed
Nuclear and construction industry among the most risky
Anti-asbestos campaigner denounces ‘collateral damage of progress’ world over
New Delhi, Aug 11: ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) and Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) welcome the refusal of Annie Thébaud-Mony director of research at Frenchs National Institute for Health and Medical Research to accept the "Legion d'Honneur" (Legion of Honour), one of the highest honors bestowed by the French government. She wants the government to "challenge the impunity that until now has protected those who carry out industrial crimes." The French government had announced that Annie was to become a knight in the Légion d'Honneur. http://www.legiondhonneur.fr/shared/fr/promo/fpromo.html.
Annie refers to industrial sectors like nuclear and construction as among the most risky. She is the author of ‘Nuclear Servitude: Subcontracting and Health in the French Civil Nuclear Industry’ published last year. In the book she asks, “What kind of public health policy, what kind of institutional vigilance, will allow us to effectively protect the health of the ‘temporary and subcontracted’ operators who will be performing – for French society as a whole – the tasks required for managing this [nuclear] waste?”
These very questions are relevant for the Prime Minister of India too who is zealously promoting nuclear power to solve the energy problem.
Annie is the co-founder of Ban Asbestos France which led the successful campaign seeking ban on asbestos, making France the first country in the world to ban asbestos. Since then more than 55 countries have banned it. India's reluctance to immediately ban has been a cause of concern for her.
She was in India during the successful campaign against the Le Clemenceau, the asbestos laden hazardous end- of-life French ship. TWA had given a testimony to the Supreme Court’s Monitoring Committee (SCMC) on Hazardous Wastes along with her highlighting the plight of worker's health in the shipbreaking industry at Alang beach in 'vibrant' Gujarat. She had disputed the French Ambassador’s misrepresentation of facts regarding French law on trade in hazardous wastes in her testimony to SCMC. She was in India to meet victims of asbestos related diseases last year too.
In her letter of refusal to the French Minister of Equality of the Territories and Housing, she wrote, “After thirty years of research I cannot help but note that working conditions continue to deteriorate, that awareness of the health disaster that is asbestos has not led to a strategy to counter the epidemic of work-related and environmental cancers, that hazardous jobs are sub-contracted and undertaken by the poorest and most precarious workers, salaried or independent, labouring in industry, agriculture, services or the public sector.”
She categorically stated, “…the recognition that I wish for would be to see the French courts condemn those responsible for industrial crimes to the true degree of their responsibility, so that prevention may one day become a reality. For all these reasons, Madam Minister, I reiterate my thanks, but ask that you accept my refusal to be decorated with the Legion of Honour.”
She further wrote, “Lets stop the truly false controversies about low dose health effects. Public policies, including criminal policy must become protective against the deliberate endangerment of life.”
She says, “We all contribute our time, intelligence and experience to aid in the emergence of that which is invisible, that which has been known as the ‘collateral damage of progress’' ', both in France and beyond the borders of the developed world.”
She says it would be "almost indecent" to accept the honor while there is "a very big indifference…to the death of workers and to environmental damage."
Responding to the refusal, Madame Cécile Duflot, Minister of Equality of the Territories and Housing in a statement issued said that she had "profound respect for Thébaud-Mony's determined and disinterested engagement," and said that her reasons to refuse the medal were exactly the ones for which she deserved it.
Public health researchers and scientists in India too should reveal the impact of industrial crimes and expose the government’s deliberate failure in protecting the health of workers and citizens.
Contact: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)-BANI, Mb: 9818089660, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web:toxicswatch.blogspot.com