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Inspection by Bharat Bhushan led IMC team on Alang beach notices ship breaking sans occupational health infrastructure

Written By Krishna on Saturday, October 20, 2012 | 11:28 AM

The 10-member Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) on ship-breaking led by E K Bharat Bhushan, Additional Secretary & Financial Adviser (FA), Union Ministry of Steel (in picture) visited various ship-breaking plots on Alang beach to inspect the dismantling of ships being done by migrant workers on October 19, 2012. The visit came in the aftermath of the death of some 11 workers and grave injury to a 12th worker who is admitted in the Sterling hospital, Bhavnagar.

Sources have revealed that the IMC team planned his own movements with regard to inspection of the shipbreaking plots unlike his predecessors and made unplanned visits to several plots on the Alang beach and met several workers. Gujarat Maritime Board had consistently succeeded in misleading and stage managing the visits by the IMC team when it was led by S. Machendranathan, the previous chairman of IMC. Bharat Bhushan did what all the previous heads of IMC beginning with Dr S Y Quraishi, A K Rath, B S Meena to Machendranathan since February 2004 to February 2012 could not do.

S. Machendranathan, his predecessor deserves appreciation only for maintaining the minutes of the meeting and putting it in the public domain which ensured that it was filed in the Supreme Court in the Exxon Valdez case before Justice Altamas Kabir bench. Bharat Bhushan's term as head of IMC will become memorable if he could get all the recommendations of IMC since February 2004 to October 2012 implemented without Supreme Court having to intervene for the same. 

IMC team asked them about their working conditions and their wages. IMC team also visited the unused trust-run hospital at the yard and the worker's colonies there. Bharat Bhushan was also invited to a meeting with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Secretary A K Joti. But it is not clear as to how the IMC will get its current and earlier recommendations to improve working and living condition of migrant workers implemented.


Originally, 25 members were supposed to visit Alang beach to take stock of the situation. Sources have revealed that IMC team has a set a deadline for remedial measures. The fact remains all the recommendations of IMC has been ignored by GMB and other concerned agencies with impunity.
The members who were supposed to be part of the IMC team included:
1. E K Bharat Bhushan, AS& FA, Ministry of Steel, Chairman, IMC
2. Mira Mehrishi, Chairman, CPCB
3. Vandana Sharma, Director, Ministry of Labour
4. Vice Chairman & CEO, GMB, Gandhi Nagar
5. Dilip Mehrotra, DG Shipping, Mumbai
6. Shri GK Basak, Secretary, Ferro Scrap Committee, Kolkata
7. Shri R K Singh, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Mumbai
8. Commander, Joint Director,(Security), Naval HQ, Ministry of Defence
9. Director, Guard, Regional HQ, Gandhi Nagar
10. Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs 
11. Member Secretary, Gujarat Pollution Control Board
12. Chief Controller (Explosive), PESO, Nagpur
13. Rashmi Agrawal, Director, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas
14. State Labour Commissioner, Gandhi Nagar, Government of Gujarat
15. DGFASLI, Mumbai
16. Chairman, Kolkata Port Trust
17. S D Kaushik, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Shipping
18. Director, Central Board Excise & Custom, Revenue Department, Ministry of Finance
19. Chairman, Mumbai Port Trust
20. Director, Industrial Safety & Health (DISH), Ahmedabad
21. Secretary, Port & Transport Department, Government of Gujarat
22. Chairman & Managing Director, MSTC, Kolkata
23. P.S. Nagarsheth, President, Indian Steel Scrap & Shipbreakers Association of
India (ISSSAI), Mumbai
24. VK Gupta, President, Ship Recycling Industry Association (SRIA), Bhavnagar
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Defence 
25. M. Subba Rao, Director, Ministry of Environment & Forests 

The absence of a large number of officials who were invited to join the inspection by the IMC team is a sad commentary on the seriousness accorded by the departments which were not represented in the team to examine world' s most controversial beach which perennially in news due to efforts by global shipping companies to colonize it for good.


All the migrant workers who became victims in the fire belonged to Uttar Pradesh. The deceased were identified as Hiralal Chaudhary (28), Ajay Chaudhary (22), Ram Milan (35), Sanjay Yadav (25), Subhash Yadav (28) and Dharmendra Chaudhary. It is not clear whether IMC team inquired about the compensation given to these workers. The half burnt person Ram Singh Sahai remains in the hospital. Names of others have not been admitted and disclosed. Only a high level probe can bring out the names of the others who are dead but whose whereabouts has not been disclosed so far. 

The workers who officially died included three from Basti and three from Gorakhpur. The one from Basti include Hiralal, s/o Ram Kishun, village/post Bharapur, Ajay Chaudhary, s/o Satyendra Chaudhary, village-Chakda, Post- Kalwani.

Workers have claimed that some 30-35 workers died in the fire of October 6, 2012. Mukadam of Plot no. 82 also got killed. Till date since 1982 after each accident and death of workers, inquiry is ordered but their report remains classified and no action is taken. It is noteworthy that one month prior to the visit of the IMC team almost all the policemen at Alang Police Station were transferred.       







The pictures of the IMC team visiting the plots on Alang beach seem to suggest that Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) stage managed the visit to the extent possible. The team should have visited those plots where accidents take place routinely that cause regular deaths of migrant workers.

The picture of Oriental N (ex Exxon Valdez) shows that although the end-of-life ship beached on August 2, 2012, its dismantling is far from over. IMC team visited the plot where it is beached. The IMC inquired about the process of purchase of the ship. It asked shipbreakers as tow hat was the issue with the Exxon Valdez. As per the Court order District Collector, Bhavnagar has to ensure that dismantling takes place as per a dismantling in keeping with its directions. Sources have revealed that in disregard to Supreme Court's order, so far the District Collector has chosen not to be associated with the dismantling process.   
At present the migrant workers in Alang who face discrimination for being Hindi speaking are not covered under Employees' State Insurance Corporation. Workers' living and working condition remains bad since 1982 when ship breaking activity started on the beach started in an ad hoc manner.

As per the website of the Ministry, the general issue of control and management of hazardous waste has been under consideration in the Hon’ble Supreme Court in writ petition no. 657 of year 1995 between Research Foundation for Science Technology National Resource Policy and Union of India and others.

During the course of deliberation, the Hon’ble Supreme Court issued the various orders, the first important order being on 14 th October, 2003. In pursuance of the Hon’ble Supreme Court order dated 14 th October, 2003, and at the request of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Ministry of Steel set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) vide order dated 12 -01-2004 followed by an addendum order dated 20-4-2004 under the Chairmanship of Additional Secretary and FA with members of Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), Ministry of Labour, Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), Central Pollution Control Board, Indian Steel Scrap and Ship breakers Association of India (ISSSAI), Mumbai Port Trust, Kolkata Port Trust etc. for the implementation of Supreme Court Orders and other related functions.

So far, IMC has held twelve meetings on 5-2-2004 (PDF File) Opens in a new window, 11-6-2004, 19-1-2005, 28-6-2005, 1-02-2006, 21-9-2006, 17-1-2007 & 9-8-2007 (PDF File) Opens in a new window, 28-2-2008, 4-2-2009, 5-10-2009, 17-09-2010 (PDF File) Opens in a new window, 08-07-2011 (PDF File) Opens in a new window & 28-02-2012 (PDF File) Opens in a new window. The last one happened on 18-19 October 2012 to discuss various issues pertaining to ship breaking industries and issued a large number of directions in line with the Hon’ble Supreme Court Orders.

The Supreme Court vide its judgement dated 6-9-07 has stated that the Government of India shall formulate a comprehensive Code incorporating the recommendations and the same has to be operative until the concerned status are amended to be made in line with the recommendations. Until the Code comes into play, the recommendations shall be operative by virtue of the judgement dated 6-9-07. Ministry of Steel is taking action to finalise the Code. The fact is that although 5 years have passed since the order but the Code is not ready as yet.    

In the meanwhile, local court of Talaja town in Bhavnagar district granted conditional bails on October 20 to ship-breakers who were booked for culpable homicide by the local police. Alang Police registered an FIR against three people-R K Jain, V K Jain, owners of Kiran Ship Breaking Company and its manager Rajesh Jagud-under section 304, 285 and 114 of Indian Penal Code in connection with the fires which broke out at oil tanker at Alang Ship breaking yard on 6 October, 2012 in which migrant workers died.

They were arrested but within hours of arrest; they complained of chest pain and were rushed to hospital in Bhavnagar. Ship-breakers have been asked to submit their passport as well. Attempting to dissuade the  local administration from doing its duty, Ship recycling Industries Association had called for strike at Alang displaying inhuman insensitivity towards the death of the workers. Arrested ship-breakers were under treatment in Hospital in Bhavnagar.

It is indeed sad that although ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) had written to UP Government, it has not taken cognisance of the ongoing deaths of citizens from UP. If IMC team did not visit the gravely injured worker in the hospital, it will remain a matter of inadvertent lapse on their part. The team should seek regular report about the condition of workers who are under treatment. In the specific case of October 6, 2012, IMC team should procure the footage from TV channels with regard to the goings on in the Plot no. 82 because media had reached the spot within one and a half hour of the massive fire and local TV media covered it from 1-6 PM. IMC should examine the Gujarati newspapers to ascertain facts about the incident as well.     


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