Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) that works for Asbestos Free India inspired by trade union leader Purnendu Majumadar. Occupational Health India and ToxicsWatch Alliance are its members that includes doctors, researchers and activists. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims. It works with trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. For Details: 1715krishna@gmail.com

Friday, November 14, 2008

Who’s to be blamed for rise in asbestos-related deaths?

Ahmedabad, November 13 Official denies use of asbestos in power companies even as the latter admit to using it for boiler and turbine insulation

It has been a life of agony, pain and compromise for Hemalata, daughter of Kishan Goplani, an ex-worker of the erstwhile Ahmedabad Electricity Corporation (now Torrent Power), who died a slow and painful death in 1996 because of asbestosis.

Although Hemalata received Rs 1.5 lakh in an out-of-court settlement in 2008, this is among a few lucky instances in the battle against the asbestos related diseases (ARDs).

Such is the state of apathy and indifference by the government that V N Patel, director Industrial Health, Hygiene and Safety, Ahmedabad denied any knowledge of asbestosis cases in the region.

He was ignorant of the report submitted by the National Institute of Occupational Hazards (NIOH) in 2005, with findings of suspected asbestosis among Torrent workers.

He also had no information about a 2007 diagnosis camp organised by Dr V Murlidhar, founder member of the Occupational Health and Safety Centre, Mumbai, which identified eight cases of asbestosis — five in torrent workers, one spouse of a worker and two Digvijay Cement workers.

To top it all, Patel even denied that power companies are using asbestos in boiler and turbine insulation.

“Now, only glass wool is being used for insulation,” he said.

This is when Torrent Power officials themselves admitted to the prevalent use of asbestos. Torrent Power said it would look into the IBAS dossier and would reply to all its findings soon.

Moving to the cement manufacturing sector, the Ban Asbestos Network of India did a survey of about 600 workers of Digvijay Cement in 2008, of whom, 103 showed symptoms of asbestosis.

Even in 2003, Kalyaneshwari, a voluntary organisation, had medically examined 93 former workers of the company, of which 24 were found suffering from ARDs.

Kalyaneshwari later filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court in this connection and the judgement is awaited.

P A Nair, Chief Executive Officer, Digvijay Cement, could not be contacted despite several attempts.

Even the credibility of NIOH has come into question, with the cases like the one in November 2007 when it failed to confirm its original diagnosis of 2005 when Torrent Power workers were found to have symptoms of ARDs.

The second diagnosis was done on the insistence of Torrent for an out-of-court settlement with workers.

Overall, the situation is so precarious that the IBAS has termed the ‘shameless betrayal of civil society by the political-industrial establishment’ as a ‘crime against humanity’.

Gaurav Sharma
Nov 14, 2008
Indian Express

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