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Seeking relief for recent cruel death of Alang workers, Shipbreakers arrest ahead of IMC visit to Alang beach

Written By Krishna on Friday, October 12, 2012 | 5:49 AM


ToxicsWatch Alliance

To

Chairperson
Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Shipbreaking  
Union Ministry of Steel
Government of India
New Delhi

Date: October 12, 2012

Through Shri D B Singh, Director, Ministry of Steel, Government of India  

Subject-Seeking relief for recent cruel death of Alang workers, Shipbreakers arrest ahead of IMC visit to Alang beach

Sir,
This is to draw your attention towards the cruel death and injury of about a dozen migrant workers from the State of Uttar Pradesh on Gujarat’s Alang beach at the ship breaking yard’s plot no.82 of R.K. Jani’s Bhavnagar based Kiran Ship Breaking Company on October 6, 2012 while dismantling 1983 built 163 meter long Crude Oil Tanker ‘MT Union Brave (ex Galp Leixoes) with IMO Number: 8001115. The end of life tanker was under the flag of Union of Comoros. I submit that the end-of-life tanker reached Alang beach on September 1, 2012.
I submit that after I got the sad information about the gruesome death on the afternoon of October 6, 2012, I had informed Ms Meera Mehrishi, Additional Secretary, Hazardous Substances Management Division, Union Minister of Environment & Forests who is also the Chairperson, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and to Shri J. S. Kamyotra, Member Secretary, CPCB to intervene to address the crisis besides other agencies.

I have learnt that ahead of the visit of the IMC in the coming week, for the first time in the history of industrial activity that commenced on the unfortunate date of February 13, 1982, three ship-breakers were arrested and booked for culpable homicide on the night of October 11, 2012, 5 days after several workers died in the inferno that broke out in a British origin oil tanker that was being dismantled on the Alang beach. The arrested include owners of Kiran Ship Breaking Company, Ram Krishna Jain and Vipin Jain along with manager of the firm Rajesh Chandra Kailash Chandra. They have been booked under Sections 304, 338, 114 and 285 of Indian Penal Code. I have learnt that the license of Charter Engineer, G P Rajeguru who gave ‘Safe for Man Entry Certificate’ has been cancelled in the matter of recent deaths in Plot No. 82 on Alang beach. Relevant news paper report is attached.

I submit that Hon’ble Court in its September 6, 2007 in paragraph 9 reads:”The Collector of the district shall be associated when the actual dismantling takes place.” The IMC should ascertain whether Shri V. P. Patel, Bhavnagar District Collector was associated with when actual dismantling was on the British ship in Plot No. 82 on Alang beach was underway.  

I have learnt that ship breakers in Alang have gone on strike to protest arrest of the owners and manager of Kiran Ship Breaking Company in connection with the killing of six migrant workers. This is the second time that these industrialists have gone on a strike to pressurize the government demonstrating their inhuman callousness towards workers death.  

I submit that Shri Maninder Singh Pawar, Superintendent of Police, Bhavnagar District has done a commendable job by arresting the culprits whose negligence led to the death of the workers. It is reliably learnt that the ship breakers association met him on October 12, 2012 to get Section 304 removed from the FIR against the arrested ship breakers who are trying to escape police action citing medical reasons. I am hopeful that the administration can withstand such undue pressure tactics.  Given the fact that Alang beach is a globally controversial site for its disregard of every rule in the rule book, all eyes are on Shri Patel and Shri Pawar who are working to ensure legal remedy for the dead and the injured.    

I wish to draw your attention towards the fact the ship breakers had gone on a strike against a notification of Director General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI), Union Ministry of Finance seeking change in system of invoicing by ship breakers at Alang, Gujarat to ensure more transparency. The Public Notice No. 01/2010 dated 26/7/2010 revealed non-transparency in the industrial activity at Alang beach.

I submit that the Final Report of the Hon’ble Supreme court appointed Technical Experts Committee (TEC) reveals the situation faced by these workers. With regard to accidents, the Final Report notes that “the average annual incidence of fatal accidents in the ship breaking industry is 2.0 per 1000 workers while the all India incidence of fatal accidents during the same period in the mining industry, which is considered to be the most accident-prone industry, is 0.34 per 1000 workers.” This is based on official data from 1995 to 2005 (roughly 40 traumatic deaths per year). In 2011 alone 28 workers died at Alang shipbreaking yards. This does not include death by disease. The inquiries in such deaths are never made public. It would be methodologically appropriate to correlate the number of fatal accidents to the number of dismantled ships. There are no medical records on the short and long term effects of the Alang’s migrant workers' (from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha) exposure to hazardous and inflammable substances. IMC ought to ensure that such records are created to get to the bottom of the goings on at Alang beach.

I submit that IMC must get the data on deaths of migrant workers since 1983 till date. It ought to consider getting the old cases of deaths on the Alang beach re-opened. The State’s Home Ministry and Central Home Ministry ought to coordinate to probe the deaths of Alang workers and made those who responsible for it liable for their acts of omission and commission.  The statistics of year wise deaths since 1991 till 2012 is attached.

I submit that in case of injury or death, they are rarely compensated. Narratives of local fishermen refer to dumping of workers bodies in the sea. Workers mention the use of violence by the local police against attempts of strikes by them over dispute about salary, safety, working and living conditions. This may be examined as well.

I submit that the case merits rigorous examination given the fact that since July 30, 2012 order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court till date some 20 workers have already been killed on the Alang beach. This reveals an unpardonable callousness on the part of the enforcement agencies towards the implementation of the recommendations of the Union Environment Secretary headed Committee of Technical Experts on Management of Hazardous Wastes relating to Ship breaking, Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Shipbreaking and the Hon’ble Court’s order besides the Office Memorandum of the Union Steel Ministry. 

I submit that while the newspapers have reported that around 12 O’ clock on October 6 massive fire caused five migrant workers to be burnt alive, one of the two critically injured who was referred to Bhavnagar based Sterling Hospital has also died. The other worker Ram Ashish is in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in the hospital. So far I have found the names of the deceased migrant workers who been identified as Hiralal Chaudhary (28), Ajay Chaudhary (22), Ram Milan (35), Sanjay Yadav (28) and Subhash Yadav (28) and whose dead bodies were taken out of the ex-UK ship. I have spoken to sources in Alang and co-related with the attached newspaper reports. The migrant worker who died in the Sterling hospital was Dharmendra (37).

I submit that the antecedents of Morritto Maritime who was the cash buyer of the end-of-life tanker and its previous ship owners must be probed. The inventory of the hazardous substances and waste on board and in the structure of the tanker must be examined and those who did not reveal the nature of these materials must be made accountable.       

I wish to place on record my appreciation for sharing the Office Memorandum No. 11 (1)/2010-MF, Government of India, Union Ministry of Steel dated August 28, 2012 directing strict compliance with the order of Hon'ble Supreme Court in the matter of hazardous wastes/shipbreaking (Writ Petition Civil 657 of 1995). I request you to ensure that IMC’s recommendations available on Steel Ministry at http://steel.nic.in/shipbreaking/shipbreaking.htm are enforced. The District Collector should be assigned the task of ensuring compliance as his role has specifically been mentioned by the Hon’ble Court.    

I submit that Hon’ble Court order of July 30, 2012 has ruled that “... in all future cases of a similar nature, the concerned authorities shall strictly comply with the norms laid down in the Basel Convention or any other subsequent provisions that may be adopted by the Central government in aid of a clean and pollution free maritime environment, before permitting entry of any vessel suspected to be carrying toxic and hazardous material into Indian territorial waters.” Taking cognizance of the same, Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Ship breaking, Union Steel Ministry may consider issuing a circular incorporating the Hon’ble Court’s order to ensure that the same is complied with in letter and spirit.

I submit that the funds collected by GMB and Steel Ministry’s Ferrous Scrap Committee (FSC) must be used for remediation and decontamination of Alang beach and for workers and villagers’ environmental and occupational health rights.
I wish to suggest following steps in keeping with the recommendations of the Hon’ble Court constituted IMC and Technical Experts Committee (TEC):
1.                          Ensure disclosure of complete details about the deaths of migrant workers on Alang beach in the ship breaking plots and the official responses to such deaths. IMC should come out with a White Paper on Death, Injury, Diseases and Liabilities related to this most vulnerable workforce;      
2.                          Make those who have not implemented Health care system for Alang workers as was required accountable.
3.                          Ensure registration of all migrant workers who work in the ship breaking activity, their photo identity cards, paid holiday, opening of bank accounts and payment through cheque and payment of Provident Fund  was required as per the recommendations of the Supreme Court’s TEC on Hazardous Wastes relating to Ship-breaking but the same has not been done till date. (Para 8.2.2, 8.3 Page 48, 49, 50, TEC)
4.                          Ensure compliance with the recommendations of IMC to set up Trust Hospital. Make sure that Trust passed the resolution to allow the ESIC to set up hospital in the building constructed by the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and also in regard to balance funds. ESIC has been constrained by non- registration of workers which is necessary for implementation of the ESI scheme and for taking over of Trust Hospital by the ESIC.
5.                          As per the Minutes of IMC, the Union Ministry of Steel was supposed to write a letter to State Government of Gujarat for granting exemption from implementation of ESI scheme at Alang- Sosyia for the past period; but the State Government/GMB should issue necessary instructions to Shipbreaking Yards for getting their employees registered for ESI/EPF coverage w.e.f. 1.4.2012. This does not appear to have been done.
6.                          IMC minutes noted that that it was also decided that the State Govt and GMB should facilitate takeover of Trust Hospital by ESIC immediately. The deadline has long passed but these recommendations have not been complied with.  As per the minutes of the 14th meeting of the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Shipbreaking held in the Steel Room, Udyog Bhawan, Ministry of Steel, New Delhi on February 28, 2012, Ministry of Labour, Gujarat Maritime Board, State Govt and Steel Ministry was supposed to take action in this regard.
7.                          Ensure compliance with the Hon’ble Court orders of October 14, 2003 read with the order of September 6, 2007 and July 30, 2012. Hon’ble Court’s order reads: “3.3.1. Recycling Facility Management Plan: Before granting authorization to the recycling facilities the SPCB should ensure that the Plan has been adopted by the Board, or the appropriate governing body of the company, and should include:
(a) A policy with focus on adequate worker safety and the protection of human health and environment the establishment of goals leading to the minimization, and ultimately elimination of the adverse effects on human health and the environment caused by ship recycling.
(b) A system for ensuring the implementation of the requirements set out in national regulations, the achievement of goals set out in the policy of the company, and a commitment to continual improvement of the procedures used in ship recycling operations.
(c) Identification of roles and responsibilities of supervisors, contractors, and workers.
(d) A programme for appropriate training of workers and availability of adequate PPEs and material handling equipment.
(e) An emergency preparedness and response plan for the plot.
(f) A system for monitoring the performance of the ship recycling operations.
(g) A system for reporting how, the ship recycling operations would be performed, including system for reporting discharges, emissions, and accidents causing damage or potential to cause damage to workers’ safety, human health and the environment, due to handling of hazardous wastes, and materials containing hazardous substances.
3.3.2. Ship Specific Dismantling Plan:
Before starting the recycling process, the recycler should submit a Dismantling Plan to the authorities, which should include:
a) Details about the ship, and in particular, a fair assessment of hazardous wastes/hazardous materials.
b) Ship breaking schedules with sequence of work.
c) Operational work procedures.
d) Availability of material handling equipment and PPEs.
e) Plan for removal of oil and cleaning of tanks.
f) Hazardous waste handling and disposal plan.
g) "Gas-free and fit for hot work" certificate issued by the Department of Explosives, or any competent agency authorized by the Department of Explosives.”

I submit that Hon’ble Court observed that the TEC “report contains recommendations on management of occupational safety and health issues and handling of hazardous materials and hazardous wastes. The report also identifies the stake holders. It is pointed out that the agencies responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations in Gujarat are GMB, DISH, Govt. of Gujarat, GPCB, Customs and the Petroleum Safety Organisation. Reference has also been made to Workers Welfare issues. Summary of the recommendations has been categorised into four categories i.e. immediate, short term, medium term and long term.”

It directed, “The Gujarat SPCB will ensure compliance with the new Gujarat Maritime Board (Prevention of Fire and Accidents for Safety and Welfare of Workers and Protection of Environment during Ship breaking Activities) Regulations, 2000, by the Gujarat Maritime Board and should submit a compliance report to the Court within one year of the coming into force of the said Regulations.”

It directed, “(12) The notification issued by GMB in 2001 on gas free for hot work, should be made mandatory and no ship should be given a beaching permission unless this certificate is shown. Any explosion irrespective of the possession of certification should be dealt with sternly and the licence of the plot-holder should be cancelled and the Explosives Inspector should be prosecuted accordingly for giving the false certificate.”

Hon’ble Court envisaged the role of IMC in this regard, it directed: “(14) The Gujarat Maritime Board and Gujarat SPCB officers should visit sites at regular intervals so that the plot-owners know that these institutions are serious about improvement in operational standards. An inter-ministerial Committee comprising Ministry of Surface Transport, Ministry of Steel, Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Environment should be constituted with the involvement of labour and environment organisations and representatives of the ship-breaking industry.”

I submit that Shri Hardik Shah, Member Secretary, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) who was recently in Sweden where he claimed improvement in Alang must be asked to reveal whether GPCB certified the hazardous and inflammable substances from the inventory of hazardous substances which were onboard the ship that caught fire in plot no. 82. Besides GMB, GPCB’s role in granting clearances merits probe as well.   

In view of the above, I urgently seek your pro-active intervention to ensure that the victims of unregulated ship-breaking activity on Alang beach get both medical and legal remedy besides just compensation and the guilty officials and ship breakers are made accountable in an exemplary manner to set matters right.      

Thanking You


Yours faithfully

Gopal Krishna
Convener
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
New Delhi
PIN. 110016
Phone: +91-11-26517814, Fax: +91-11-26517814
Mb: 9818089660
E-mail:krishna1715@gmail.com
Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com

Cc
Shri Beni Prasad Verma, Union Minister of Steel
Shri Anand Sharma, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry
Shri G K Vasan, Union Minister of Shipping
Shri A K Antony, Union Defence Minister 
Smt Jayanthi Natrajan, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Shri Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, Union Minister of State, Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Chairman & Members, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment & Forests
Shri A K Seth, Cabinet Secretary, Government of India
Shri R K Singh, Secretary, Union Ministry of Home Affairs
Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Secretary, Union Ministry of Shipping
Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests
Secretary, Union Ministry of Defence
Secretary, Union Ministry of Steel
Smt. Vijay Laxmi Joshi, Additional Secretary , Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Ms Meera Mehrishi, Additional Secretary, HSMD, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Shri Madhusudan Prasad, Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry  Shri Rajeev Kher, Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Ms Anita Agnihotri, Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Shri Mukesh Bhatnagar, Additional DGFT, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry   
Dr. Satish B. Agnihotri  Director General of Shipping & Ex. Officio Additional Secretary, Govt. of India
Shri A C Buck, Director General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI), Union Ministry of Finance
Chairman, Inter Ministerial Committee on Shipbreaking, Union Ministry of Steel
Shri S.S. Bajaj, Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Mumbai
Ms Aditi Das Rout, Director, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry   
Dr. Manoranjan Hota, Director, HSMD, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Dr Claude Alvares, Member, Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes
Dr D B Boralkar, Member, Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes
Shri Sanjay Parikh, Lawyer, Supreme Court
Miss Sunita Naraian, Director General, Centre for Science and Environment
Member Secretary, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB)
Chairman, GPCB
Chairman, Gujarat Maritime Board
Shri S K Sharma, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board
Shri L S Singh, Union Ministry of Steel
ACB, Gandhinagar, CBI
Office of Commissioner, Customs, Ahmedabad
Shri C A Joseph, Under Secretary, MF Desk, Union Ministry of Steel
Shri V. P. Patel, Collector, Bhavnagar District
Shri Maninder Singh Pawar, Superintendent of Police, Bhavnagar District

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