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Application in Bihar Human Rights Commission on Death of asbestos worker in Bihiya's asbestos factory

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, February 13, 2014 | 12:02 AM

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

To

Shri Neelmani
Acting Chairperson,
Bihar Human Rights Commission
9, Bailey Road, Patna

Date: Feb 13, 2014

Subject- Death of asbestos worker who worked in the factory of Ramco Industries in Bihiya, Bhojpur, Bihar, health status of other workers and villagers

Sir,

This is to draw your attention towards the operations of asbestos based factory in Bihiya, Bhojpur, Bihar wherein a worker has died due to lung related diseases contracted exposure from asbestos fibers that cause incurable diseases. This happens because safe and controlled use of white chrysotile asbestos like its other varieties is impossible which has led to more than 50 countries banning its use.

In nutshell, asbestos fibers used for making asbestos cement roofs etc is a ticking time bomb for lungs which causes preventable but incurable diseases and deaths.

I submit that both World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) have recommended total elimination of its mining, manufacturing and use. WHO document is attached. It may be noted that mining of asbestos is technically banned in India but the asbestos based factories procure raw asbestos mineral fiber from countries like Russia. It is one of the pernicious and residual legacies of the old era.

I submit that the January 27, 1995 and January 21, 2011 orders of Supreme Court make it clear that State Governments and Government of India have to comply with fresh ILO resolution of June 2006 on asbestos. ILO resolution is available at
http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/ilc/ilc95/pdf/pr-20.pdf    

I submit that health is a state subject. The issue in question is concerned the human rights of the present and future generations. In fact in the Supreme Court's judgment of January 27, 1995 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 [CERC Vs Union of India] that dealt with asbestos exposure, right to health was declared as part of fundamental right to life.  

I submit that the painful death of Shri Virendra Kumar Singh alias Shri Barak Yadav, an asbestos worker who worked in the factory of Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries in Bihiya, Bhojpur, Bihar merit urgent attention because it underlines that each worker in the factory in question faces similar fate.

I submit that the State Government may be asked to submit the health records of all the workers who are working in this factory including that of Shri Virendra Kumar Singh alias Barak Yadav.

I submit that as per Hon'ble Supreme Court's judgment of January 27, 1995 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 which was reiterated on January 21, 2011, the health records of workers have to be maintained for 40 years and for 15 years after the retirement. The judgment also stipulates compensation for such workers who suffer from asbestos related diseases.

I submit that Hon'ble Patna High Court has rightly observed in its August 19, 2013 order that "...In the circumstances, this Court is really surprised with the stand of the State Board that the norms have been relaxed for the two other asbestos manufacturing units in operation from before, only on the ground that they are running in the respective industrial areas." In its final judgment dated October 28, 2013, the Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) was to take action as per law.

I submit that through a letter dated December 26, 2013, BSPCB has refused to extend the Consent to Establish (NOC) given to West Bengal based Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL)'s proposed asbestos based plant in Vaishali. This has led to cancellation of the proposed asbestos factory.

I submit that this was done in compliance with Hon’ble Chief Minister, Government of Bihar’s assurance to a delegation that met him at his residence on February 13, 2013 that he will puncture such hazardous plants in the fertile land of Bihar.  

In the light of the observation of the Hon’ble High Court it is abundantly that Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) is adopting double standards in the matter of cancellation of Consent to Establish-cum- No Objection Certificate (NOC) given to asbestos companies in Bhojpur and Vaishali. The two companies -namely, Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries and Nibhi Industries -mentioned by the Court are located in Bihiya and Giddha, Koilwar of Bhojpur district. BSPCB has cancelled the NOC of West Bengal based Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL)'s proposed asbestos based plant in Vaishali for violating environmental and industrial siting guidelines of BSPCB.

I submit that Chennai based Ramco Industries Ltd has two units of 1,20,000 MT/Annum Capacity of Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and 2 Lakh MT/Annum Capacity of Cement Grinding Plant at Industrial Area, Bihiya, Bhojpur. The plant got environmental clearance for the first unit. Even this clearance and the NOC was/is based on a fake public hearing with the help of local muscle man. There are complaints pending with the District Administration against the plant. It violates the environmental and industrial siting guidelines of BSPCB. The total project area is 20 acres and land is allotted by the state government on lease for 90 years. On 10th May, 2010, the project was discussed by the Experts Appraisal Committee (EAC), Industry, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests. In the minutes of the EAC, there explicit reference to "Health Management Plan for Mesothalimoa, Lung cancer and Asbestosis related problems in asbestos industries". The second unit of the Ramco company is running without environmental clearance and NOC.

I submit that in contempt of Hon’ble Supreme Court's order dated January 27, 1995, the Ramco is not maintaining and maintaining the health record of every worker, not conducting Membrane Filter test to detect asbestos fibre and not insuring health coverage to every worker. It is reliably learnt that the company does not have qualified occupational health doctors to undertake these tasks. The company should be asked for a list of workers employed in the factory, their health records and the qualification of the doctor assigned to undertake their health checkup.

While BSPCB has done the right thing by citing its battery limit of "a distance of minimum 500 meters from the National/State Highway, Railway line, river and human habitation" to outlaw the proposal of a asbestos company, the same should be applied to asbestos based toxic factories in Bhojpur. No amount of sophistry by the companies operating in Bhojpur and some officials in BSPCB can undermine the gnawing anxiety about risk and hazardous consequences underlined by WHO and ILO which has sought elimination of manufacturing and use of asbestos based products.

I submit that BHRC may examine the pre-existing orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and its legal imagination to outlaw industrial and environmental risks from these hazardous factories and save public health.

I submit that in a related development, teams of TV journalists from US based Associated Press, Delhi based channels and Patna based journalist visited and recorded the indiscriminate dumping of asbestos waste in the agricultural fields and in the backyard and front yard of village households by Ramco Industries. The company has created a dumpsite of its asbestos waste adjacent to human habitation with impunity. Its factory is situated amidst villages and temples that expose the villagers to the hazardous fibrers. The villagers revealed that the factory releases huge amounts of dust and smoke at night that creates a cloud above their houses causing visibility problem.

I submit that there is another factory of Chennai based Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd for One Lakh MT Capacity Asbestos Fiber Cement Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet and Accessories and Light Weight Fly Ash Block Plant at Giddha, Koilwar, Bhojpur. There are complaints pending with the District Administration against the plant. The asbestos based factory at Giddha, Koilwar is also in proximity of human habitation is exactly in front of Trident BEd College. One worker was crushed to death in this factory in June 2013. It also violates the environmental and industrial siting guidelines of BSPCB. It may be noted that written submissions have been submitted to District Collector seeking removal of the plant, which is currently closed. The company may be asked to undertake decontamination of the site and compensation for exposing the villagers of Giddha to asbestos fibers.

I submit that communities in villages around the hazardous industrial units of Ramco Industries in Bihiya and Giddha cannot be expected to become superior risk bearers unlike villagers of Muzaffarpur and Vaishali where similar plants have been stopped.

I submit that unmindful of the death toll, clearances have accorded to yet another asbestos based plant in Pandaul, Madhubani amidst all round opposition.

I submit that when defending the indefensible asbestos factories becomes a compulsion of officialdom, disasters like the one witnessed in the Bhopal based factory of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC)'s hazardous pesticide plant become the order of the day. UCC was also in the asbestos business whose liability has been owned by its buyer US based Dow Chemicals Company and assigned $ 2.2 billion dollars for compensation fund to the victims in US where 10, 000 people are dying every year from asbestos related diseases.

In view of the above and in view of the attached order of Kerala State Human Rights Commission's order against use of asbestos, kindly provide relief to the workers of the two asbestos based factories, save the villagers of Bhojpur from such hazardous plants and recommend setting up of a asbestos compensation fund for the same.

I will be happy to share more information.

Thanking You

Yours faithfully
(Gopal Krishna)
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731
E-mail:gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com
Web: www.toxicswatch.org

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