Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Ban-Asbestos-India

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) works for Asbestos Free India since 2002. Occupational Health India and ToxicsWatch Alliance are its members that includes occupational health doctors, researchers and activists. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims. It works with trade unions, human rights, environmental and public health groups. For Details:krishna1715@gmail.com, oshindia@yahoo.in, toxicswatchallaince@gmail.com

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Central Environment Ministry seeks reply from Bihar Pollution Control Board regarding violation of environmental laws by asbestos factories


After the stoppage of asbestos based factories in Muzaffarpur and Vaishali, following a complaint of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), the regional office of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests &
Climate Change has sent a letter to Bihar State Pollution Control Board ( BSPCB) regarding violation of environmental laws by asbestos factories in Bhojpur.  Although BSPCB has cancelled the No Objection Certificate given to the asbestos factory units of Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd and Ramco Industries in Bhojpur they are still running. Despite such action these factories are operating with impunity. Ramoco had permission for one factory but has been running two factories. The letter dated 9 February, 2017 is attached. This is the second letter in this regard. The earlier letter was sent on August 3, 2016 pursuant to the complaint of TWA. 

It is noteworthy that BSPCB has revoked its emission-consent order and discharge consent order given to Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd which was valid till 31st March, 2018. Chairman, BSPCB has ordered, the company in question, Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd. to “close your industrial unit with immediate effect, failing which complaints shall be filed u/ss. 44 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and 37 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.” This land allotment was considered to be part of the scam that led to an inquiry into allotments by Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA). In Bhojpur's Giddha village in Koilwar block, the 100,000 MT Capacity Asbestos Fibre Cement Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet, Accessories and Light Weight Fly Ash Block Plant acquired 15 acres. The plant site is located adjacent to Ara-Koilwar road.

When it was repeatedly pointed out the violations of the general and specific conditions given the environmental clearance and NOC by Ramco Industries, BSPCB’s Chairman took its cognizance. He has issued an order saying, “I therefore, have no option but to treat this unit as a non-compliant industry and am not inclined to renew the Emission-Consent-Order and Discharge-Consent-Order for further period beyond 31.3.2016. The applications for Emission-Consent-Order and Discharge-Consent-Order dated 12.2.2016 are, accordingly, refused.”  A 120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and a 200,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Grinding Plant was set up in Bihiya block of Bhojpur by by Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries Ltd. It is noteworthy that only 120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant had the clearance from the BSPCB. The second unit of bigger capacity functions without any clearance. The project was allotted 20 acres by the state government on lease for 90 years. Although the company had approval for only one factory, it has been running two units. It was given approval for only the 120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and not it’s 200,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Grinding Plant.

The villagers complained against the hazardous factories in their proximity that manufacture chrysotile white asbestos-cement products. The hazardous asbestos waste has been dumped indiscriminately in the adjoining villages and the agricultural fields. When one worker died of asbestos related disease in the Ramco factory, her daughter has filed a case in the human rights commission. The company has given a compensation of Rs 5, 000 in matter of a death of this dead person (mritak ki maut) avoiding to mention his status as a worker and arguing that he was a cook in the factory and not a worker. This case is sub judice with Bihar Human Rights Commission. Workers of this factory have been on strike on several occasions but they have been silenced with the help of unscrupulous local leaders and officials of easy virtue. Local news papers and Patna based newspapers had highlighted the pollution and health related complaints of the villagers. Besides Associated Press a special program of Doordarshan had highlighted the issue of asbestos factory amidst densely populated villages.

The companies involved misled the villagers by telling them that agro-based factories will be set up. Initially, when they bought the land they did not disclose that it was for asbestos based factories. When students of 10th and 12th standard found that it was going to be hazardous factory, they pointed out that as per their biology and chemistry text books asbestos causes incurable lung diseases.

After more than five years of villagers' struggle against lung cancer causing asbestos based plant of West Bengal based Balmukund company in Chainpur-Bishunpur, Marwan block in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar was closed. It had approval for 3 lakh ton per annum capacity. Bitter resistance against the proposal of West Bengal based Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) at Chaksultan Ramppur Rajdhari near Panapur in Kanhauli Dhanraj Panchayat of in Goraul block in Vaishali made the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar intervene after a delegation of leaders from Left parties and anti-asbestos activists met him in this regard. TWA worked with Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangarsh Committee of Muzaffarpur and Vaishali to resist the setting up such hazardous plants and represented it in negotiations. Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) cancelled the No Objection Certificate given to the UAL company. It had approval for 2.5 lakh ton per annum capacity.
This company also operated Giddha, Bhojpur based asbestos factory for some time as well.

After he was presented a memorandum signed by 10, 000 villagers, BSPCB’s Chairman stood his ground against the factory because it had violated the Battery Limit fixed for such hazardous industries. Company representatives compared harmful effects of asbestos exposure to harm from drinking too much alcohol and road accident. This was emphatically rejected by the villagers as quite insensitive. 



The peoples struggle led to stoppage of proposed asbestos based plant of 1.25 lak tons per annum (TPA) capacity in Pandaul, Sagarpur, Hati tehsil in Madhubani. The proposal of 2.5 lakh TPA capacity plant by Hyderabad Industries Ltd in Kumar Bagh, Bettiah, West Champaran has
also been stopped. The company has constructed a boundary wall amidst rich agricultural field but faces court cases from villagers.

Given the fact that No Objection Certificate given by BSPCB of all the asbestos based factories in Bihar been cancelled by BSPCB, there is no legal basis for the continued operations of these hazardous factories. TWA had sent the cancellation orders to the central environmental
ministry.

BSPCB has cancelled the No Objection Certificate given to the asbestos factory units of Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd and Ramco Industries in Bhojpur.

When it was repeatedly pointed out the violations of the general and specific conditions given the environmental clearance and NOC by Ramco Industries, BSPCB’s Chairman took its cognizance. He has issued an order saying, “I therefore, have no option but to treat this unit as a non-compliant industry and am not inclined to renew the Emission-Consent-Order and Discharge-Consent-Order for further period beyond 31.3.2016. The applications for Emission-Consent-Order and Discharge-Consent-Order dated 12.2.2016 are, accordingly, refused.”

A 120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and a 200,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Grinding Plant was set up in Bihiya block of Bhojpur by by Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries Ltd. It is noteworthy that only 120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet
Plant had the clearance from the BSPCB. The second unit of bigger capacity functions without any clearance. The project was allotted 20 acres by the state government on lease for 90 years. Although the company had approval for only one factory, it has been running two units. It was given approval for only the 120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and not it’s 200,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Grinding Plant.

The villagers have been complaining against the hazardous factories in their proximity that manufacture chrysotile white asbestos-cement products. The hazardous asbestos waste has been dumped indiscriminately in the adjoining villages and the agricultural fields. When one worker died of asbestos related disease in the Ramco factory, her daughter has filed a case in the human rights commission. The company has given a compensation of Rs 5, 000 in matter of a death of this dead person (mritak ki maut) avoiding to mention his status as a worker and arguing that he was a cook in the factory and not a worker. This case is sub judice with Bihar Human Rights Commission.
Workers of this factory have been on strike on several occasions but they have been silenced with the help of unscrupulous local leaders and officials of easy virtue.

BSPCB has revoked its emission-consent order and discharge consent order which was valid till 31st March, 2018. Chairman, BSPCB has ordered, the company in question, Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd. to “close your industrial unit with immediate effect, failing which complaints shall be filed u/ss. 44 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and 37 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.”

In Bhojpur's Giddha village in Koilwar block, the 100,000 MT Capacity Asbestos Fibre Cement Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet, Accessories and Light Weight Fly Ash Block Plant acquired 15 acres. The plant site is located adjacent to Ara-Koilwar road.

It is noteworthy that questions have been raised against these plants in Bihar Vidhan Sabha and Vidhan Parishad. Shri Abdul Bari Siddiqui, the then leader of opposition (and current Bihar Finance Minister) raised the issue of hazardous asbestos factories in Vidhan Sabha. In another significant observation Shri Awadhesh Narain Singh Chairperson, Bihar Legislative Council (BLC) and former labour minister said, “buying asbestos is akin to buying cancer” and “pain of asbestos related diseases is worse than the pain of unemployment.” 

The speech of Chairman, BLC is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9TbemRUkYM

In India, asbestos mining is technically banned and trade in asbestos waste (dust and fibers) is also banned. Union Environment Ministry’s Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health reads, "Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out" but the Experts Appraisal Committee of this very ministry continues to give environmental clearance to such hazardous industries. This is notwithstanding the fact that "The Government of India is considering the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure," as announced in a concept paper by the Ministry of Labour. Both these documents are available on central government’s website but struggle
to make Indians safe from deadly exposure of asbestos fibers continues in the face of misinformation campaign of the killer industry. 



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 State govt has to comply with fresh ILO, resolution of June, 2006 on ASBESTOS and 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. In violation of Hon'ble Supreme Court's orders, the Bihiya factory of Ramco company has not been maintaining the health record of every worker, not conducting Membrane Filter test to detect asbestos fibre, nor insuring health coverage to every worker and that the company does not have qualified occupational health doctors to undertake these tasks. This is true about the factory of Nibhi company in Koilwar as well.

In view of the above, TWA has sought immediate intervention to ensure that both these companies in question are tasked to decontaminate asbestos laden factory sites, building, prepare a register of victims of asbestos related diseases and announce a compensation fund for victims of fatal diseases remains to be undertaken. This is required to save present and future generation from incurable asbestos related diseases.

For Detials: Dr Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail-1715krishna@gmail.com, Web: www.asbestosfreeindia.org, www.toxicswatch.org


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Make India’s capital free of harmful asbestos based products


To

Chairman
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
New Delhi

Subject: Make India’s capital free of harmful asbestos based products

Sir,

This is to draw your immediate intervention to make India’s capital free of harmful asbestos based products in view of the statement of Shri Anil Madhav Dave, Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change Government of India interview with  The  Times  of  India said “Since the use of asbestos is affecting human health, its use should gradually be minimised and eventually end. As far as I know, its use is declining. But it must end…”[1] 
This is in keeping with the 19 page long Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health of your ministry which states ‘4.3.1 Environmental epidemiological studies are required to be carried out near to industrial estates and hazardous waste disposal sites to estimate the extent of health risks including from asbestos. Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out’.” The relevant URL of Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health is available at www.envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/visenvhealth.pdf
We submit that our country is consuming 15 % of the total world asbestos production, as per US Geological Survey estimates. As per 2014 data, India used 379,000 tonnes of asbestos, out of which only 270 tonnes were mined in mines whose leases have not yet expired. It has technically banned asbestos mining but it continues to procure it from countries like Russia, Brazil, Kazakhstan and China. The minister’s statement reveals that NHRC is right in its direction which reads: “Replace the asbestos sheets roofing with roofing made up of some other material that would not be harmful to inmates.”[2] NHRC has already decided that asbestos harmful to human health.  It is evident that the NHRC considers asbestos sheets as harmful. It is noteworthy that asbestos fibers used for making asbestos based products like asbestos cement roofs etc is a ticking time bomb for lungs which causes preventable but incurable diseases and deaths.
We submit that Delhi has three factories engaged in handling asbestos namely, Makino Auto Industries (P) Ltd in Shahdara, Brakes International in Udyog Vihar and Minocha Metals (P) Ltd in Patparganj Industrial Area.
We submit that these companies should be asked to switch non-asbestos materials in the light of the fact that some 48 countries have banned white asbestos mineral fibers that causes incurable lung cancer according to World Health Organisation (WHO). This will go a long way in combating fatal diseases caused corporate crimes and in making national capital the first region in the country to adopt zero-tolerance policy towards the killer asbestos fibers.
We submit that so far some 48 countries have banned asbestos as of November 2016. These countries are : Germany, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, France, Australia, Norway, Spain, Belgium, United Kingdom, Israel, Turkey, Mauritius, Denmark, Ireland, Mozambique, Seychelles, Egypt, Netherlands, Slovakia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Bahrain and Jordan, Gabon, South Korea, New Caledonia, Slovenia, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Brunei, Oman, Kuwait, Poland, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Gibraltar, Latvia, Portugal, Greece, Estonia, Lithuania, Qatar, Croatia, Honduras, Luxembourg, Romania, Uruguay, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta, Saudi Arabia, Czech Republic, Iceland, Serbia and Algeria.
We submit that National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) passed an order in Case No: 693/30/97-98 recommending that the asbestos sheets roofing be replaced with roofing made up of some other material that would not be harmful.
We submit that Government should be asked to ensure decontamination of asbestos from the old schools and ensure that no asbestos roofs or any asbestos material is used in any school or public or private building in Delhi.
We submit that Delhi’s Govt should be asked to take steps to ensure that only non-asbestos building material and water supply pipes etc are procured. A register of asbestos laden buildings and victims of asbestos related diseases should be created. A compensation fund for the victims of primary and secondary exposure must be established.
We submit that substitutes for asbestos based products are not limited to products that simply replace asbestos with another material (e.g., PVA and cellulose in fiber-cement roofing sheet).  There are also a number of wholly different products that can replace the asbestos products. It is noteworthy that asbestos of all kinds including white chrysotile asbestos is banned in some 50 countries.

We submit that while asbestos mining is technically banned in the country, in a shocking case of inconsistency India continues to import asbestos from asbestos producing countries like Russia, Brazil Kazakhstan and China. Trade in asbestos waste (dust and fiber) is also banned.
We submit that by letter dated 9th July, 1986  from Union Ministry of Steel, Mines & Coal, Government of India with reference no. 7/23/84-AM-III/AM-VI there is a stay on grant of new mining lease for asbestos mineral and renewal of the leases. Reiterating the same in June 1993, central government stopped the renewal of existing mining leases of asbestos. The mining activity was banned by Union Ministry of Mines.
As a result at present no permission is being given for new mining lease of asbestos mineral and no lease is being renewed. At present no lease of asbestos mineral is approved/or in force in the country.

It is strange that while mining of asbestos is banned in the country due to adverse health impact, the same is being imported from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Zimbabwe. It high time government stopped practicing such untenable policies displaying manifest double standards.

In a bizarre act while Government of India has technically banned asbestos mining, it continues to allow import and export of asbestos. "In view of the deleterious effect of asbestos mining on health of the  workers, the government has ordered the State governments in 1986 not to grant any new mining lease for asbestos (including Chrysotile variety) in the country" as per Government of India’s letter. Government must be made make India asbestos free by rectifying the irrationality of banning mining of asbestos but continuing its trade.

We submit that following vibrant struggle in villages of Muzaffarpur and Vaishali in Bihar and Bargarh in Odisha stopped the establishment of asbestos based plants.  There are struggles going in Bhojpur, Bihar against such heavily polluting factories. 

In view of the same, if the Commission can recommend ban on procurement of asbestos based products by government agencies it will send a clear signal that it is sensitive towards the health of present and future citizens of national capital.
We will be happy to share relevant information in this regard.

Gopal Krishna


[1] Will look for alternatives to carcinogenic asbestos: Environment Minister. August 15, 2016. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Will-look-for-alternatives-to-carcinogenic-asbestos- Mantri/articleshow/53703528.cms
[2] NHRC order in Case No.693/30/97-98

Thursday, November 24, 2016

NHRC disregards its own order against asbestos roofs, gets persuaded by a conflict of interest ridden study


Briefing Statement

NHRC disregards its own order against asbestos roofs, gets persuaded by a conflict of interest ridden study

Ignoring Supreme Court’s directions and medical evidence, following ACPMA’s impleadment, NHRC refrains from banning killer fibers of asbestos

India has banned asbestos mining and trade in asbestos waste but continues to import asbestos from Russia, Brazil, Kazakhstan and China

NHRC reveals “India may not support the inclusion of Chrysotile in Annexure-III at the next COP Meeting” of Rotterdam Convention disregarding domestic law that makes asbestos a hazardous substance

Ignoring gnawing public health hazard and its order about the harmful effect of asbestos, "NHRC has refrained from prohibiting use of killer mineral fibers of white asbestos.  The order in Case No.2951/30/0/2011 filed by ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) is available on NHRC’s website.

The Commission appears to have committed a grave error by merely reproducing the submission of one Assistant Industrial Advisor, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals as part of its “Directions”.

NHRC has ignored its own order in Case No.693/30/97-98. The order is available on NHRC’s website. In this case NHRC’s direction reads: “Replace the asbestos sheets roofing with roofing made up of some other material that would not be harmful to inmates.”NHRC has already decided that asbestos harmful to human health.  It is evident that the NHRC considers asbestos sheets as harmful.   It is noteworthy that asbestos fibers used for making asbestos based products like asbestos cement roofs etc is a ticking time bomb for lungs which causes preventable but incurable diseases and deaths.

NHRC has ignored its own statement dated June 5th, 2012, NHRC wrote, “The Commission had asked them (the central and state authorities) to share with it the information on the action taken by them with regard to the Supreme Court judgment dated the 21st January, 2011 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 260 of 2004 on exposure to asbestos.” It further wrote, “The Commission, while seeking their responses, had particularly drawn their attention the Supreme Court directions with regard to Para 16 of the Writ Petition, which are as follows: a) Ministry of Labour in the Union of India and Department of Industries and Labour in all the State Government shall ensure that the directions contained in the judgment of this Court in the case of Consumer Education and Research Centre (supra) are strictly adhered to; b) In terms of the above judgment of this Court as well as reasons stated in this judgment, we hereby direct the Union of India and the States to review safeguards in relation to primary as well as secondary exposure to asbestos keeping in mind the information supplied by the respective States in furtherance to the earlier judgment as well as fresh resolution passed by the ILO.” NHRC’s statement is available at: http://nhrc.nic.in/disparchive.asp?fno=2576

NHRC has ignored the decision of Kerala Human Rights Commission dated January 31, 2009 with the following recommendations: a) The State Government will replace asbestos roofs of all school buildings under its control with country tiles in a phased manner. b) The Government will take steps to see that the schools run under the private management also replace the asbestos roofs with country tiles by fixing a time frame. c) The Government should see that in future no new school is allowed to commence its functions with asbestos roofs.

It is noteworthy that “Asbestos poisoning” was highlighted in a meeting of the Core Group of NGOs that discussed Right to Environment which was held in the Commission on September 12, 2007, under the chairmanship of Justice Shri Y. Bhaskar Rao, Member NHRC.

NHRC has ignored Supreme Court's order dated January 27, 1995 and recommendation of World Health Organisation (WHO)'s outline for the Development of National Programmes for elimination of asbestos related diseases' make a case for stopping all asbestos based products to prevent the imminent public health crisis as a consequence of which more than 55 countries have banned all forms of asbestos. The Hon'ble Court's order is available at https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1657323/. This order has been reiterated in 2011 by the Hon'ble Court. The relevant WHO document is available at: http://www.who.int/occupational_health/publications/asbestosrelateddiseases.pdf

NHRC has ignored, Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health (Para 4.3.1) of Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change that reads: “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out”. (Reference:http://moef.nic.in/divisions/cpoll/envhealth/visenvhealth.pdf)

NHRC has ignored that so far some 48 countries have banned asbestos as of November 2016. These countries are : Germany, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, France, Australia, Norway, Spain, Belgium, United Kingdom, Israel, Turkey, Mauritius, Denmark, Ireland, Mozambique, Seychelles, Egypt, Netherlands, Slovakia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Bahrain and Jordan, Gabon, South Korea, New Caledonia, Slovenia, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Brunei, Oman, Kuwait, Poland, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Gibraltar, Latvia, Portugal, Greece, Estonia, Lithuania, Qatar, Croatia, Honduras, Luxembourg, Romania, Uruguay, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta, Saudi Arabia, Czech Republic, Iceland, Serbia and Algeria.

NHRC has ignored that Dow Chemicals Company has set aside $2.2 billion in compensation fund to address future asbestos-related liabilities arising out of acquisition of Union Carbide Corporation and its Indian investments in 1999. Many manufacturers of asbestos-containing products have gone bankrupt in USA as a result of asbestos litigation.

NHRC has ignored the reply to NHRC dated May 29, 2012, Joint Secretary, Government of Uttarakhand in Case No.2951/30/0/2011, has submitted to the NHRC a document Medline Plus Trusted Health Information for You, U.S. National Library of Medicine and the prescription of National Institutes of Health (NIH) highlighting the Treatment stating: “There is no cure. Stopping exposure to asbestos is essential.”

NHRC has ignored the submission of Secretary, Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh Administration which has categorically informed National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that “a. White Asbestos (Chrysotile Asbestos) is implicated in so many studies with the following diseases:-Mesothelioma (Cancer of Pleura), Lung Cancer, Peritoneal Cancer, Asbestosis, And also consider as cause of following cancers:- Ovarian Cancer, Laryngeal Cancer, Other Cancer b. Diseases are produced in the person involved in Asbestos Industry.”

It states that “No. of cancer deaths due to asbestos requires further large scale study from India”. It informs, “It is definitely harmful material, causing cancer and other related diseases.”

It quotes from Pulmonary Medicine journal saying, “Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals exploited commercially for their desirable physical properties. However, it has been proved beyond doubt that Asbestos is hazardous to humans. White asbestos has been found to have causal relationship with various diseases like pulmonary asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma leading to deaths of thousands of people every year.” Considering the risk, its use has been banned more than 50 countries including Japan, European Union and Australia and efforts are being made for its prohibition in many countries.

The reply of Chandigarh Administration concludes saying, “Hence, use of white asbestos should be completely banned in India also and the same may be replaced by some safe alternative material.” Chandigarh Administration has realized the public health consequences of exposure to fibers of asbestos.

In a separate reply to NHRC, Assistant Labour Commissioner, Union Territory, Chandigarh has referred to para 16 of the judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court dated January 21, 2011 passed in Writ Petition (Civil) No.260 of 2004 wherein directions of January 27, 1995 in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 is required to be strictly adhered to.  It further states, “In terms of the above judgement of this Court as well as reasons stated in this judgement, we hereby direct the Union of India and States to review safeguards in relation to primary as well as secondary exposure to asbestos keeping in mind the information supplied by the respective States in furtherance to the earlier judgement as well as fresh resolution passed by the ILO. Upon such review, further directions, consistent with law, shall be issued within a period of six months from the date of passing of this order.”  As to ‘fresh resolution passed by the ILO’, it is noteworthy that “A Resolution concerning asbestos was adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 95th Session in 2006. Noting that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are classified as human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and expressing its concern that workers continue to face serious risks from asbestos exposure, particularly in asbestos removal, demolition, building maintenance, ship breaking and waste handling activities, it calls for: – the elimination of the future use of asbestos and the identification and proper management of asbestos currently in place as the most effective means to protect workers from asbestos exposure and to prevent future asbestos-related diseases and deaths.”  NHRC has ignored it as well.

 Having ignored such glaring and indisputable scientific, medical and judicial findings, Mr. Justice H.L. Dattu headed Commission has issued the following Direction:

“Pursuant to the directions of the Commission, Dr.Rohit Misra, Assistant Industrial Advisor, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, Deptt. of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, Govt. of India vide letter dated 4th July, 2016 has informed the Commission that in order to take an appropriate and scientific stand in the International Forum on the issue related to health hazards posed by Chrysotile variety of Asbestos, Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals had entrusted National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) to carry out a study on Health Hazards/Environmental Hazards resulting from the use of Chrysotile variety of Asbestos in the country. Later, with the approval of MoS (Ind. Charge) Chemicals & Fertilizers, it was decided to set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee for considering the issue of continuance or otherwise of the use of Chrysotile variety of asbestos in India, taking into account of NIOH report and other related issues. On 27.8.2014, a meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Minister (Chemicals & Fertilizer) to consider the NIOH report. It was decided in the meeting that the NIOH report does not indicate any significant health/environment hazards resulting from the use of Chrysotile asbestos under proper conditions, coupled with the fact that asbestos products are quite cost effective for use by the masses, India may not support the inclusion of Chrysotile in Annexure-III at the COP Meeting in 2015. In the light of the above report, no further action by the Commission is called for. The case is closed.” The Commission concluded on 8th August, 2016.

It is quite bizarre that views of Secretary, Medical Education & Research & Assistant Labour Commissioner, Chandigarh Administration and Joint Secretary, Uttarakhand Government have been disregarded and NHRC allowed itself to be persuaded by views of Assistant Industrial Advisor, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers. It is the same ministry which is dealing with public health disaster caused due to industrial disaster of Bhopal. This ministry’s callousness towards public health concerns due to hazardous chemicals and pesticides is well known. It does not even have the inventory all the chemicals used in the country and a register of its ill effects on human health and environment.

It is indeed quite strange that NHRC has ignored Union Ministry of Labour’s concept paper that declares, "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. The Concept paper of the Central Government notes, "Asbestosis is yet another occupational disease of the Lungs which is on an increase under similar circumstances warranting concerted efforts of all stake holders to evolve strategies to curb this menace". (Reference: http://www.labour.nic.in/lc/Background%20note.pdf)

As to NIOH study, while one disagrees with the findings of the conflict of interest ridden study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Health, (NIOH), it is evident that even this study does not state that chrysotile asbestos is not a hazardous chemical.  Had NIOH study concluded that Chrysotile Asbestos is not a hazardous chemical it may have become relevant. But even then it would have been legally unsustainable because under Indian laws chrysotile asbestos is a hazardous chemical.

NHRC ignored the fact that Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests had informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply that the study of the health status of the workers and the residents in the vicinity of the asbestos industry by NIOH, Ahmedabad was co-sponsored by the Asbestos Cement Products Manufactures Association (ACPMA). Out of a total of Rs. 59.66 lacs allocated for the study by Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, the Asbestos Cement Products Manufactures Association has contributed Rs. 16 lacs. Reference: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelcontent.aspx?relid=36794

NHRC has ignored that fact that every Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report of every asbestos based factory itself admits that asbestos is a hazardous substance.  The EIA report is prepared under EIA Notification notified under Environment Protection Act, 1986.  

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), the complainant before the NHRC got a reply based on Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals (DCPC)’s note dated June 18, 2013 from Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) on the issue of Government of Indias position on hazardous substance chrysotile asbestos at the Sixth Conference of Parties of (CoP-6) of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade held during April 28-May 10, 2013 in Switzerland.

As to NIOH’s role, a perusal of the 7 page long note of the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals (DCPC), Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers on the subject of Chrysotile Asbestos titled “Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals View on the use of Chrysotile Asbestos” in the country along with MoEF ‘s letter reveals that the contention of MoEF based DCPC’s note stating that “On the basis of the said note, the listing of Chrysotile Asbestos under Annex -A of Rotterdam Convention at CoP-6 during April 28th -May 10th 2013 at Geneva could not be supported”  was/is misplaced. The note of the “line department”, i.e. Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals (DCPC), Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers on the subject chrysotile asbestos illustrates that it has failed to understand the purpose of the Rotterdam Convention and ignorance about the objective of the Convention.

NHRC has ignored the objective of Article 1 of the Rotterdam Convention which reads: “The objective of this Convention is to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm and to contribute to their environmentally sound use, by facilitating information exchange about their characteristics, by providing for a national decision-making process on their import and export and by disseminating these decisions to Parties.”

NHRC has been kept in dark about the  concluding sentence of the DCPC’s note which reads: “In view of the above, India may take a stand in the next CoP meeting of Rotterdam Convention for not inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in Annexure-III of Convention.”

NHRC has ignored the fact that the note is irrelevant from the point of view of the objective of the Convention for which it was prepared.

NHRC has ignored that the NIOH study which has been mentioned was admittedly tainted because of proven conflict of interest and thus its inference was questionable. This was admitted in the Parliament by the Labour Minister and the Environment Minister. The Press Information Bureau (PIB) release with regard to the same is available on its website.

It is submitted that the flawed conclusion of the DCPC’s note titled “Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals’ View on the use of Chrysotile Asbestos in the country” is based on manifestly flawed reasoning.

NHRC has ignored the fact that at the first meeting, the Chemical Review Committee (CRC) under the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, the committee agreed to recommend to the Conference of the Parties that Chrysotile Asbestos should be listed in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. The CRC is a group of government designated experts established in line with Article 18 of the Convention that evaluates candidate chemicals for possible inclusion in the Convention. Chrysotile (serpentine forms of asbestos) is included in the PIC procedure as an industrial chemical.

NHRC has failed to appreciate that what is poisonous and hazardous within India cannot be deemed non-poisonous and non-hazardous under the unscientific influence of DCPC and Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association (ACPMA) at the conference of Parties of Rotterdam Convention. DCPC’s untenable position is ridiculous.

NHRC has ignored the fact that the Union Ministry of Finance has announcement that asbestos related diseases will be covered under Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (National Health Insurance Scheme) is an acknowledgement of the fact that asbestos is a health hazard although this is hardly sufficient in the absence of environmental and occupational infrastructure.

NHRC has not been able to get the report of the 13 member- Advisory Committee of Union Ministry of Labour which has been set up to implement Supreme Court’s order. This Advisory Committee is supposed to incorporate the ILO resolution of 2006 in the matter of asbestos as per Supreme Court’s order of 1995 and 2011 under the Chairmanship of Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Labour but as of November 20, 2016, the Advisory Committee has not submitted its report despite the fact that more than 4 years have passed since it was entrusted the task on January 23, 2012. The ministry is supposed to incorporate specific directions of the Court with regard to fresh ILO Resolution of June 14, 2006 introducing a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos besides WHO‟s resolution of 2005 seeking elimination of future use of asbestos.

NHRC has ignored the approval and the recommendations of the Chemical Review Committee under Rotterdam Convention that has endorsed listing of chrysotile asbestos in the PIC list of hazardous substances.

NHRC has ignored the fact that Government of India’s Environmental Impact Assessment, Guidance Manual for Asbestos Based Industries. The Manual refers to WHO’s “Environmental Health Criteria 203; Chrysotile Asbestos (http://www.who.int/en/)” but fails to incorporate the criteria. Although requirements underlined in the Manual has neither been complied with in the past nor are they being adhered to at the present and it is quite unlikely that it will be done in future, NHRC has failed to apply it mind to such grave situation.

NHRC ignores that the official Inventory of Hazardous Chemicals Import in India lists “Asbestos” at serial no. 26 as one of the 180 hazardous chemicals in international trade which is imported in India. This inventory has been prepared by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), under Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt. of India.”

NHRC ignores that Schedule I of Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 provides the List of Processes Generating Hazardous Wastes. The list has 36 processes generating hazardous wastes. It may be noted that Production of Asbestos or Asbestos containing materials which generates Asbestos-containing residues, Discarded Asbestos, Dust/particulates from exhaust gas treatment is at the serial no. 15 in the list.

NHRC has ignored that Schedule VI of Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 that provides List of Hazardous Wastes Prohibited for Import and Export. The list had 30 such hazardous wastes which are also covered under UN‟s Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. The list mentions Waste Asbestos (Dust and Fibers) at serial no. 16 with its Basel No. A2050.

NHRC has ignored that even under Factories Act, 1948, the List of 29 industries involving hazardous processes is given under Section 2 (cb), Schedule First, asbestos is mentioned at serial no. 24. The Act defines "hazardous process" as “any process or activity in relation to an industry specified in the First Schedule where, unless special care is taken, raw materials used therein or the intermediate or finished products, bye-products, wastes or effluents thereof would--(i) cause material impairment to the health of the persons engaged in or connected therewith, or (ii) result in the pollution of the general environment”. This leaves no doubt that asbestos is a hazardous substance. The Act is available at:

http://labour.nic.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/ActsandRules/Service_and_Employment/The%20Factories%20Act,%201948.pdf

NHRC has ignored the findings of Supreme Court constituted High Powered Committee (HPC) headed by Prof. MGK. Menon (by order dated October 13, 1997) for examination of all matters relating to hazardous wastes. The HPC had dealt with issues of asbestos based industries and their wastes. Based on it the Court has passed the landmark order of October 14, 2003 seeking prior decontamination of ships in the country of export before it is allowed in Indian waters. In compliance of this order which established Basel Convention as part of right to life, the end-of-life ships need to be decontaminated of asbestos and asbestos wastes before they are allowed entry in Indian waters.

NHRC has ignored the findings of Supreme Court constituted Technical Experts Committee on Hazardous Wastes relating to Ship-breaking in 2006-7 that had asked National Institute of Occupational Health, (NIOH) to undertake an epidemiological study was planned to find out the magnitude of asbestos related health problems and other disorders among ship breaking workers. The study observed that 15 (16 %) of 94 workers occupationally exposed to asbestos showed linear shadows on chest X-rays, and 26 workers (39%) showed restrictive impairment. But despite Supreme Court’s order dated January 27, 1995 fixing Rs 1 lakh for victims of asbestos related diseases these workers have  not been compensated.

NHRC has ignored the fact that the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods classifies Chrysotile Asbestos in Hazard Class and Packing Group, UN number 2590, Class 9 – Miscellaneous dangerous goods and articles. Its International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code is UN No: 2590: Class or division 9.

NHRC has ignored the fact that on June 22, 2011 Indian delegation led by Ms. Mira Mehrishi, Additional Secretary, had supported the listing of Chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous chemical substance at the fifth meeting on Rotterdam Convention amidst standing ovation.

NHRC ignored the Working Group of a Planning Commission on Occupational Safety and Health for the Xth Five Year Plan at the workplace in its 159 page report dated September 2001, the Working Group which noted that “The workers are also exposed to a host of hazardous substances, which have a potential to cause serious occupational diseases such as asbestosis…” It has recorded that various studies conducted by the Central Labour Institute have revealed substantial prevalence of occupational health disorders amongst the workers such as Asbestosis. The prevalence rate for Asbestosis was reported to be 7.25%.”

In its report dated August 01, 2011, NHRC provided details of its interventions including Banning use of white asbestos (Case No.2951/30/0/2011), wherein it claimed “The Commission took cognizance of a complaint that about fifty thousand people die every year in the country from asbestos-related cancer. The complainant requested the Commission's intervention to ban chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos), which is used on walls and roofs claiming that it caused various incurable diseases, and that the Government illogically had technically banned the mining of asbestos but allowed its import from countries which do not let it be used domestically.  The Commission issued notices to the Secretaries of the Union Ministries of Chemical & Fertilizers, Environment & Forest, Health & Family Welfare, Industry & Commerce, and Labour and to the Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories, calling for reports on the issues raised in the complaint.”

NHRC issued a Press Release dated 6th July, 2011 wherein it observed, “Citing contradictory position of the Government on the issue the complainant Gopal Krishna of Toxics Watch Alliance has alleged that though the mining of Asbestos has been technically banned by the government, but it allows its import and that too from the countries which do not prefer its domestic use.” NHRC release reads: “It is also alleged that white Asbestos is considered a hazardous chemical substance for environment by a number of countries in the world. However, it is being used in a number of industries in India affecting the workers employed their in. The complainant has also requested for grant of a compensation package for present and future victims of Asbestos diseases.” NHRC has failed to appreciate that Russia, the world’s biggest asbestos producer remains India’s biggest supplier of raw asbestos given the fact that India has banned asbestos mining because of its deleterious impact on health. India remains the world’s biggest asbestos importer. India is consuming 15 % of the total world asbestos production, as per US Geological Survey estimates.

It is germane to recall that Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association (ACPMA) had filed a case against TWA and NHRC in Delhi High Court through W.P. (C) 2682/2012 and C.M. No. 5765/2012 “seeking impleadment before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is not being actioned while the NHRC is seeking to proceed with its enquiry in respect of allegations which would in fact affects the petitioner and its members.” Following ACPMA’s impleadment, this case was disposed off on 14th May, 2013 after 11 hearings in the High Court.  Justice Rajiv Shakdher May 14, 2013 two page order reads: "The Registrar, NHRC is present in court.After a detailed hearing, counsels for the parties submit that the controversy in this case can be cut short with the petitioner making a request for inspection. It is further agreed that, in case the petitioner requires copies of specific material filed before the Commission, the same would be supplied unless it is already available in public domain. It is ordered accordingly. In so far as the application for impleadment is concerned, I am informed by the learned counsel for the Commission and the learned Registrar that the petitioner has already been given a right to appear before the Commission so as to enable the petitioner to present its case. This is reflected in the Commission’s order dated 15.10.2012. It is, in fact, the grievance of the counsel for respondent no. 1 that the petitioner has not made a representation; though it is contended by Mr Virmani, that the same was not done because the relevant material was not made available to the petitioner. In view of the aforesaid statements of parties, time for making a representation is extended by another six weeks. I am also informed by the counsel for the Commission that the next date of hearing in the matter is fixed on 15.07.2013. Needless to say, as indicated above in terms of the Commission’s order dated 15.10.2012, the petitioner will have the liberty to appear and present its case before the Commission. The writ petition is not pressed any further by the learned counsel for the petitioner. The writ petition is, accordingly, disposed of with the aforesaid statements of the parties on record.” Mr Rajeev K. Virmani was the Senior Advocate who appeared on behalf of ACPMA which claims to be a non-profit organization.

Prior to this ACPMA had filed an RTI application with NHRC seeking copy of the complaint made before NHRC by TWA. TWA had objected to its disclosure prior to Commission’s verdict but CIC arrived at a decision saying ACPMA “has the right to have a copy of the complaint made by Shri Gopal Krishna of Toxics Watch Alliance against the appellant’s Association more so in view of the fact that they have been directed to appear before the Commission on 31.12.2012 to present their case” although this was contrary to decision of the NHRC adopted in the meeting pertaining to Administrative Business held on 15.12.2009 held:  “that copies of reports on specific complaints submitted by the investigation team of the Commission or by Commission’s authorized representatives or received from the Government or other authorities may be supplied under the RTI only after final order is passed in the case”.

In February 2016, Justice Dattu began serving as the chairperson of the NHRC. Prior to him Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice Cyriac Joseph headed the Commission that looked in to the issue of banning use of White Asbestos. It appears that concerned institutions got intimidated by the influence of asbestos industry through its non profit NGO, ACPMA. The “Direction” of NHRC is a setback to public health amidst epidemic of asbestos related diseases.


For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)/ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731, Email: 1715krishna@gmail.com, Web: http://www.asbestosfreeindia.org, www.toxicswatch.org

Monday, September 26, 2016

Preventable asbestos related diseases and deaths must be prevented, regulators and manufacturers held criminally liable


Preventable asbestos related diseases and deaths must be prevented, regulators and manufacturers held criminally liable 

National Labour Institute journal publishes paper seeks “elimination of use of all kinds of asbestos as per the recommendations of the Court, ILO and WHO”

“If preventable diseases and deaths are not prevented, the regulators and manufacturers of asbestos based products must face criminal liability”, said Dr Gopal Krishna, Editor, ToxicsWatch and convener, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) while delivering a speech at the 3rd International Conference on Occupational and Environmental Health (ICOEH 2016) in at National Institute of Health & Family Welfare (NIHFW), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India, New Delhi. Drawing lessons from the ongoing industrial disaster of Bhopal caused by Union Carbide Corporation, he argued that the public health disaster being caused by asbestos based industries shows that no lessons have been learnt from the industrial disaster which happened 32 years ago and which continues to be an ongoing disaster. Like hazardous chemicals, asbestos is a threat to life throughout its life cycle. 

He was speaking at the Scientific Session III “Elimination of Asbestos Related Diseases in India” which was chaired by Dr. U Datta, Dean, NIHFW.

The abstract of Krishna’s paper titled “Status of enviro-occupational  health of workers in hazardous industries: An inquiry into asbestos industry” has been published in the Souvenir of the ICOEH.

“This paper examines the hazards which workers face in the in the asbestos based industries. The paper examines the implications of routine admission by the industry that asbestos fibers which are used in their plants as a raw material is hazardous in nature and the “industry will give information to the workers on hazards associated with asbestos" given the fact that asbestos factory's "Construction site has a potential hazardous environment." The paper will evaluate the regulatory mechanisms in place to deal with the deleterious effect of exposure to asbestos fibers and the role of the asbestos products manufacturers. The paper reviews the submission to National Human Rights Commission by Maharashtra government and inconsistencies that get revealed from the documents of state’s Directorate of Industrial Safety & Health (DISH) in the matter of death and diseases of workers who worked in asbestos based factories and on plots of ship breakers.”

“It examines the studies conducted by National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad on health hazards resulting from asbestos industry and shipbreaking industry.”

“The paper examines the status of asbestos factories in Bhojpur, Bihar. The occupational health status of 78 workers currently working in the asbestos based factrory in Bihiya, Bhojpur is dealt with reference to the death of a worker in the factory. The paper documents the reaction of the government and the company to the death of the worker in question. It reviews the role of State Government, Patna High Court, Bihar State Assembly, Bihar Human Rights Commission, Bihar State Pollution Control Board, Central Pollution Control Board and National Human Rights Commission in the matter of asbestos based factories in the state. The paper reviews the decision of the Government of India to stop “grant any new mining lease for asbestos (including Chrysotile variety) in the country" keeping in mind the ‘deleterious effect of asbestos mining on health of the workers’. It examines its rationale of promoting trade, manufacturing and use of asbestos fibers in India.” 

“The paper draws on lessons from the industrial disaster of 1984. This disaster demonstrated that what happens to workers happens to communities and environment. The life cycle assessment of hazardous industries and products has unequivocally established the adverse health impact on workers and consumers. Workers and the communities in the vicinity are a community of fate.  The link between occupational exposures and non-exposures isn’t quite distant. The paper underlines how lack of documentation and lack of occupational health infrastructure does not mean lack of victims of asbestos related diseases.”

“It infers that there is a need for adopting measures consistent with global scientific and medical findings to safeguard workers from asbestos related incurable diseases caused due to occupational exposures and non-occupational exposures of their families. It builds a case for intervention aimed at saving workers’ health and life from dirty, degrading and dangerous working and living conditions.”  The abstract of the paper is available at page no, 74 of the Souvenir published by ICOEH. ICOEH was co-organised by Department of Community Medicine, Vardhaman Mahavir Mdical College & Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi, National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), New Delhi in partnership with Occupational Health and Safety Management Consultancy Services (OHS-MC) and in collaboration with Indian Public Health Association, St. Stephen's Hospital, Delhi, Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences & Research (HIMSR), New Delhi, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine, Community Medicine Department, PDU Govt. Medical College, Rajkot Gujarat, Indian Association for Adolescent Health, Dept of Community Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, Advanced Research Publications, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh and Center for Inquiry, Washington, DC, USA.         

The Souvenir was released by Dr. Jagdish Prasad, Director General of Health Services, Government of India along with Dr Barry Kistnasamy, Occupational Health/Compensation Commissioner, South Africa, Dr. Jugal Kishore Chairman, Scientific Committee, ICOEH, Prof Dr J K Das and Dr Ashish Mittal.    

Speaking at the conference, it was argued that there is a logical compulsion for Union of India to support inclusion of white chrysotile asbestos in the UN list of hazardous chemicals under UN’s Rotterdam Convention.

In a related development, an academic paper “Status of occupational health of workers in hazardous industries: An inquiry into asbestos and ship breaking industry”published in Labour & Development journal by V. V. Giri National Labour Institute, the Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government India concludes. “Given incontrovertible evidence, the government ought to consider recommendations to take preventive steps by ensure elimination of use of all kinds of asbestos as per the recommendations of the Court, ILO and WHO.  The continued use of white chrysotile asbestos is a legacy of the Soviet era. There are established substitutes of these killer fibers of asbestos which need to be adopted to prevent incurable diseases but preventable deaths. In view of the ongoing environmental exposures, emergence of the epidemic of asbestos related diseases and diseases due to exposure to other hazardous substances there is an immediate need to create a register of these workers and their health records as per Court's decision and to undertake an audit of the current status of the victims of asbestos related diseases from the government hospital records in the country and make it mandatory for medical colleges to provide training for doctors. This is required so that they can diagnose diseases caused by occupational, non-occupational and environmental exposures to killer fibers and substances.”    

This paper “reveals that the relationship between the employer and the employee in asbestos industry is deeply exploitative. The latter suffers the fate of dehumanization. They have become the most vulnerable workforce in the world. Their condition is admittedly worse than the workforce in the worst industrial sector-the mining industry. This dehumanization linked to the externalization of human cost by global and national companies. The workers of the hazardous industries constitute part of the community of fate to which all wretched of the earth belong with no remedy from occupational health crisis in sight.”

Drawing on Central Government’s Draft National Health Policy, 2015 which mentions “industrial and occupational safety” as part of multiple determinants of health, it concludes that “So far “existing knowledge” has failed to inspire institutional action to safeguard the health of even the most vulnerable working class. It is apparent that there has been a policy bias against them since inception. If this policy can facilitate preventive structural measures with regard to preventable but incurable diseases “that are more prevalent in certain occupational groups” it can pave the way for occupational health justice for the workers. 

For Details: Gopal Krishna, BANI/ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731, Email: 1715krishna@gmail.com, Web: http://www.asbestosfreeindia.org, www.toxicswatch.org




Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bihar Government yet to submit comments in Asbestos case to NHRC

In spite of reminders, the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar has not furnished his comments on the comments of the Toxics Watch Alliance dated 1.3.2015. Hence, the Chief Secretary, Govt. of Bihar may be reminded to furnish his comments as sought for by the National Human Rights Commission within four weeks. 

This is the status of the asbestos in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as of April 6, 2016. 

NHRC Vide proceedings dated 22.12.2014, notice was issued to the Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Government of India requiring him to report whether any steps had been taken pursuant to the proposal to ban the use of Chrysotile Asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure of Chrysotile form of Asbestos.


 Though the notice dated 29.1.2015 was sent to the Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Government of India for submitting report by 20.3.2015, no report has been received so far. Hence, a reminder may be issued to the Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Govt. of India to submit a report in the matter within four weeks. Vide proceedings dated 22.12.2014, the Government of Bihar was directed to file a report within six weeks regarding the question whether the directions contained in the judgment of the Supreme Court in W.P. (C ) No.206 of 1986 are being followed by the manufacturers of asbestos in the State of Bihar including M/s Ramco Industries Ltd., District Bhojpur. However, no response has been received from the Government of Bihar despite the communication dated 29.1.2015 sent by the Commission. Hence, the Secretary, Labour Department, Government of Bihar may be reminded to submit the required report within four weeks, failing which the Commission will be constrained to take action u/s 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.


Pursuant to the proceedings dated 20.3.2015, a copy of the comments of the Toxics Watch Alliance dated 1.3.2015 was sent to the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar for his comments within a period of eight weeks. But the Chief Secretary, Govt. of Bihar has not furnished his comments so far. Hence, the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar may be directed to submit within four weeks his comments in respect of the comments dated 1.3.2015 of Toxics Watch Alliance, which had been sent to him by the Commission. The report received from the Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai regarding the hazardous effect of asbestos was considered by the Commission on 30.3.2015 and it was directed to give a copy of the report to the representatives of the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers' Association seeking their comments.


Accordingly, the report was forwarded to Ms. Rashmi Virmani, Advocate vide Commission letter dated 1.5.2015. Ms. Rashmi Virmani, Advocate has submitted the comments of the Association through communication dated 29.6.2015. As Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers' Association has requested to ignore the report submitted by the Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai for the reasons stated in their comments. The comments of the Association may be forwarded to the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), Mumbai requesting for their response to the criticism made by the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers' Association.


The Director, Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai may be requested to sent a response within four weeks. From a report submitted by the State of Tamil Nadu pursuant to the notice issued by the Commission, it is seen that the Ministry of Labour & Employment, Govt. of India had constituted an Advisory Committee on asbestos and the first meeting of the Committee was held on 19.4.2012. It is also seen that the Directorate General, Factory Advice Service & Labour Institutes (DGFASLI) has modified the existing Schedule on Asbestos in line with ILO Convention No.162 on the direction s of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India. It is also seen that the revised model rules were yet to be approved by the Ministry of Labour & Employment, Govt. of India. In the above circumstances, the Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Employment, Govt. of India is requested to inform the Commission within four weeks whether the revised model rules have been approved by the Government of India. 


Earlier, NHRC took cognizance of a complaint alleging that about fifty thousand people die every year in the country due to Asbestos related cancer. The complainant has sought Commission's intervention for a ban on the use of Chrysotile Asbestos (White Asbestos), which is hazardous for the health of people and causes various incurable diseases. The white Asbestos is a fibrous material used for building roofs and walls and various in other forms.


Citing contradictory position of the Government on the issue the complainant Toxics Watch Alliance has alleged that though the mining of Asbestos has been technically banned by the government, but it allows its import and that too from the countries which do not prefer its domestic use.

It is also alleged that white Asbestos is considered a hazardous chemical substance for environment by a number of countries in the world. However, it is being used in a number of industries in India affecting the workers employed their in.

The complainant has also requested for grant of a compensation package for present and future victims of Asbestos diseases.


The Commission had issued notices to the Secretaries of Ministries of Chemical Fertilizers, Environment and Forest, Health and Family Welfare, Industry and Commerce, Labour and Chief Secretaries of all the States/Union Territories calling for status reports within four weeks on the issues raised in the complaint. Almost all these agencies have filed their replies in the Commission. The case is at its penultimate stage.  


The Chief Administrative Officer, TMC, Mumbai has also not submitted his response on the communication dated 29.6.2015 submitted by Ms. Rashmi Virmani, Advocate which contained the objections of the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers' Assocition. The Chief Administrative Officer, TMC, Mumbai may be reminded to submit the required response within four weeks.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India-ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail-1715krishna@gmail.comWeb: www.asbestosfreeindia.orgwww.toxicswatch.org



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