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Asbestos Company sues Nitish Kumar led Government for supporting Vaishali villagers

Written By Krishna on Monday, March 25, 2013 | 6:24 AM

 Asbestos Company sues Nitish Kumar led Government for supporting Vaishali villagers

Amidst bitter resistance of Vaishali villagers to stop cancer causing asbestos factory, Utkal Asbestos company has been filing fake cases to implicate villagers and Bihar Govt

Patna/New Delhi: In response to Bihar Chief Minister’s promise of ‘puncturing’ hazardous asbestos factories in the fertile State in the meeting with the leaders of Vaishali’s Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangharsh Committee (KBJBJC) and the leaders of left parties on February 13, 2013, Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) Industries Ltd has filed a case against the State Government. The case was filed on March 4, 2013 in the Patna High Court. The case is scheduled for hearing on April 4, 2013 before Mr. Justice J.N.Singh. 

The promise of the Chief Minister followed declaration of Shri Awadhesh Narain Singh, Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council saying ‘buying asbestos is akin to buying cancer’ at a conference on environmental and occupational health on December 24, 2012, in his address to the health experts, scientists, trade union leaders, academicians, civil society leaders and villagers. The conference also adopted a Patna Declaration urging State of Bihar to ban Asbestos Product Use and to ban Asbestos Product Use. Speech of Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9TbemRUkYM
It may be recalled that Justice (Retd) Rekha Kumari, Patna High Court has contended that companies which willfully expose human beings to cancer causing fibers of asbestos must be made criminally liable because right to health is part of right to life in a public lecture on December 24, 2012 at A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna. Her hand written legal opinion is available with the ToxicsWatch Alliance, which has been campaigning for national ban on lung cancer causing on asbestos products following its ban in over 50 countries.    

It is noteworthy that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar met the leaders of ban asbestos movement met the leaders at his residence at 1, Anne Marg in Patna in the evening hours of on February 13, 2013. The Chief Minister expressed outrage at the granting of ‘No Objection Certificate’ by Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) to hazardous asbestos based factories in fertile agricultural lands. In a remarkable move Bihar Chief Minister phoned Chairman, BSPCB and fixed an appointment for the villagers of Vaishali for February 14, 2013 and expressed his disapproval for asbestos based factories to him in front of the leaders of the left parties and the villagers’ committee.  

Following the meeting with the villagers and Chief Minister’s directions, BSPCB officials visited the factory site on March 4, 2013 as part of the process to cancel the approval given to the asbestos company’s plant.   

Struggle of villagers of Vaishali’s Chaksultan Rampur Rajdhari near Panapur in Kanhauli Dhanraj Panchayat in Goraul block against asbestos based factory has reached a decisive phase. Villagers have been protesting against this lung cancer causing hazardous plant under the banner of KBJBJC for more than 2 years.

After the villagers Mahadharna of June 14, 2012, the district administration had put a stay on the construction of the factory. When the construction started again on December 16, 2012, the villagers blocked the Mahua-Samastipur road for 9 hours to express their protest against the proposed white asbestos plant of UAL company in their village on June 14. Cancer causing white asbestos also called chrysotile asbestos is banned in 55 countries.

It is noteworthy that "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." This has been revealed in a concept paper by Union Ministry of Labour revealed during 19-20th September, 2011. The resolutions of WHO and ILO in 2005 and 2006 have called for the elimination of asbestos.

In India, mining of asbestos is technically banned but its import from other countries is yet to be banned. Trade in asbestos (dust & fibers) is also banned.  
The dubious designs of the UAL company against the villagers and protesters to protect its hazardous plant at the cost of villagers’ health was condemned by the speakers who spoke at the demonstration. In a dubious move, the UAL has filed case no. 252/2012, 509/2012 and 510/2012 to silence the voice of public interest persons. This appears to be done to trap villagers into concocted cases as part of company’s design to malign the movement of the KBJBJC. The memorandum sought the withdrawal of three fake cases lodged in Mahua Thana, Vaihsali.

Asbestos Virodhi Nagrik Manch, Patna and left and socialist parties participated in the demonstration on January 16, 2012 to express solidarity with the villagers struggle against the asbestos based factory of Utkal Asbestos Limited.

Now that the construction of asbestos based factory in Vaishali is all set to be permanently stopped, the issue of three asbestos plants in Bhojpur’s Giddha and Bihiya has come to the forefront where protest has been going on for more than 2 years. Notably, the Giddha plant is situated behind a B Ed College. The villagers are protesting against this plant. In Bihiya, Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries is operating two asbestos plants amidst protests from villagers although it has permission for only one. Memorandum has been submitted to the District administration and BSPCB in this regard.

The memorandum to the Chief Minister demanded white asbestos based plants should be closed in public interest keeping public health in mind and dismissal of fake case registered by Utkal Management.

ToxicsWatch Alliance demands that following Chief Minister’s intervention Bihar’s State Investment Promotion Board (SIPB) and the State Cabinet must disapprove asbestos based industrial projects and rescind earlier approvals.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 9818089660 (Delhi)
Ajit Kr Singh, Convener, Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangharsh Committee (KBJBJC), Vaishali, Mb: 09931669311, E-mail:ajeetsinghpushkar@gmail.com
Ravindra Prasad Singh, Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangharsh Committee (KBJBJC), Vaishali, Mb: 8986980751  

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9:27 PM

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