Hon’ble President of India
Government of India
Date: October 11, 2012
Subject- Asbestos is a "dirty"
word for UN, Indian Navy, like India, Canadian asbestos mine too will not be re-opened
I wish to draw your urgent attention
towards three facts related to world’s movement towards becoming asbestos free
has become a "dirty" word because of its health hazards. One, the UN
Headquarters in New York has just been made asbestos free pursuant to the Capital
Master Plan for the renovation United Nations Headquarters Complex which
entailed asbestos removal project. In February 2012, UN Conference Rooms 1-3 was
gutted and made free of asbestos.
Two, the news report on the
delivery of the INS Vikramaditya, a former Russian naval aircraft carrier (formerly
Admiral Gorshkov) dated Sep 17, 2012 published in DefenseWorld.net
revealing, “India refused
to use asbestos to protect the boilers from heat, fearing that the material was
dangerous for the crew" according to Russian officials. The statement of
the official spokesperson for the Indian Navy, Commander PVS Satish, saying, “There
is no question of India’s refusal to use of asbestos since it’s internationally
banned. At the time of signing the contract, it was simply specified in the
agreement” merits serious attention.
Three, the report of October 10,
2012 published in La Tribune in the Canada’s asbestos mining region of Quebec, wherein
Bernard Coulombe, CEO of Jeffrey Asbestos
Mine has confirmed to La Tribune on October 10, 2012 that the mine will
be closed. It is logical after the new Quebec government has cancelled the $58
million loan that the previous government gave to open the Jeffrey underground
mine. After Canadian Government announced a ‘U-turn on asbestos mining’ on
September 14, 2012. This announcement was awaited.
I submit that to begin with key
public building in India like Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament, Supreme Court,
AIIMS, NHRC, buildings of our armed forces besides the headquarters of the
political parties too should be made asbestos free like the UN headquarters.
I submit that our armed forces
are at a grave risk of asbestos exposure because asbestos has been used
extensively in their work places and residential places. In the Army and Air
Force, asbestos is used in brake and clutch pads installed in everything from
tanks to jeeps to aircraft. Asbestos is part of the insulation in housing and
other buildings on military bases, electric wiring insulation aboard military
planes, and fire retardant materials used by military firefighters and gunners.
In the Navy, Merchant Marine, and Coast Guard, it is even more widely used,
mainly as thermal insulation aboard ships. Asbestos is used in old and new
constructed naval vessels.
I submit that our Ministry of Defence, Navy, Army and Air Force must be asked
to compile statistics for how many soldiers have died from asbestos related
diseases, how many are suffering from it and how many face the danger of
exposure which causes asbestos-related lung cancers and serious respiratory
diseases. Our airmen, sailors and soldiers would feel betrayed by the armed
forces and the government they served if they come to know that they faced
asbestos exposure and government did nothing to save them.”
I submit that Union Ministries of Commerce and Finance fail to recognize that the
world is preparing and planning to get rid of all forms of asbestos. This has
been recognized by Ministries of Chemicals, Labour, Environment and Mines. It
has been recognized by the National Human Rights Commission and Kerala State Human
Rights Commission besides WHO, ILO and IARC. State Governments and other
related ministries are constrained by the myopia of Commerce and Finance
I submit that it makes us look
stupid in India to be still importing it and planning t o lift the ban on
chrysotile asbestos mining. Instead, our scarce resources should be used to
prevent the impending disaster by phasing it out as soon as we can.
It is high time Government of India took note of ongoing asbestos exposures of
citizens, consumers and workers and took immediate remedial measures. The
exposure of construction workers and automobile mechanics for instance defies
regulatory control efforts in any country.
I submit that asbestos is mainly used for manufacturing asbestos-cement
sheets, asbestos-cement pipes, brake lining, clutch lining, asbestos yarn &
ropes, gaskets & seals etc.
I submit that import and export Asbestos-containing
Products should be banned at the earliest and decontamination of asbestos laden
building sand products must be initiated to save future victims.
I submit that although more than 50 countries have recognized that safe and controlled
use of asbestos of all kinds is not possible, CPCB under tremendous influence
of the asbestos industry recommends standards even at the risk of sounding
ridiculous in the comity of nations.
I submit that there were
questions raised about asbestos in 15th Lok Sabha. In one instance, the Union Minister
of Mines and Minister of Development of North Eastern Region reiterated the ban
imposed on grant and renewal of mining leases and expansion of mining of
asbestos and stated, ‘At present the ban on grant/renewal of mining leases of
asbestos has not been lifted’ on December 7, 2010 in response to a question by Shri
Narahari Mahato, Member of Parliament.
I submit that unmindful of the fact
that over 50 countries have banned it the asbestos mining lobby from Andhra
Pradesh has overwhelmed the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), a subordinate office
of the Union Ministry of Mines. As a result IBM has failed resist such influence
and undertaken a doctored Study recommending lifting of ban on asbestos mining.
I submit that draft guidelines
laying down the safeguards for mining of asbestos for allowing grant/renewal of
mining leases of asbestos based on the recommendations of such Study supposedly
in consultation with Central Pollution Control Board and Directorate General of
Mines Safety is motivated.
I submit that it has come to
light through Right to Information application and admitted in the Parliament
by the Union Ministers of Labour and Environment that the studies conducted by
the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahemedabad was funded by the
chrysotile asbestos industry. The same holds true for the study by IBM.
I submit that on August 18,2003,
the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare and Parliamentary Affairs
informed the Parliament that: "Studies by the National Institute of
Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad, have shown that long-term exposure to any
type of asbestos can lead to development of asbestosis, lung cancer and
mesothelioma." This was not the first official acknowledgment of the
asbestos hazard. Government of India's Office Memorandum NO.6 (6)/94 - Cement,
(Sept 1, 1994) of the Ministry of Industry states: "The Department has
generally not been recommending any case of Industrial License to any new unit
for the creation of fresh capacity of asbestos products in the recent past due
to the apprehension that prolonged exposure to asbestos leads to serious health
I submit that the asbestos
industry’s denial of harm has aptly been summarized by Professor David
Ozonoff, School of Public Health, Boston University as
Asbestos does not
hurt your health.
OK, it does
hurt your health, but it does not cause cancer.
can cause cancer, but not our formulation of Asbestos.
OK, our kind of Asbestos
can cause cancer, but not the kind of cancer this person got.
OK, our kind of
Asbestos can cause that kind of cancer, but not at the doses to which this
person was exposed.
OK, Asbestos does
cause cancer, and at this dosage, but this person got their disease from
OK, the person was
exposed to our Asbestos and it did cause their cancer, but we did not know
about the danger when we exposed them.
OK, we knew about the
danger when we exposed the person, but the statute of limitations has run out.
OK, the statute of
limitations has not run out, but if we are guilty, we will go out of business
and everyone will be worse off.
OK, we will go out of
business, but only if you let us keep part of our company intact, and only if
you limit our liability for the harms we have caused.
I submit that globally asbestos industry and asbestos
producers like Russia and Canada stand exposed.
In the light of the above mentioned findings and
developments, in short, I
1. Request you to ensure that Rashtrapati Bhavan and Governors’ House in States
be made asbestos free at the earliest
2. Make buildings of our Armed Forces asbestos free
3. Ensure medical check of workers, consumers and citizens
who handle asbestos products or are in its vicinity and work towards a just
transition of workers with compensation to the affected workers and citizens
4. Prepare a Register of asbestos handlers and victims and award a compensation
of at least Rs 20 lakh for the asbestos victims
5. Issue an appeal to the National Human Rights Commission and all the State
Human Rights Commissions of the country to adopt the path-breaking order of the
Kerala Human Rights Commission with immediate effect
6. Protect the human rights of the asbestos exposed workers and recommend
setting up of a Compensation Fund for occupationally and non-occupationally
exposed victims of asbestos related diseases
7. Recommend creation of adequate environmental and
occupational health infrastructure
8. Urge you to put an end to the use of the of all kinds of
asbestos products that is being used and encountered daily, because none of the
schools, offices, legislatures, courts, hospitals, automobiles, private and
public buildings in our country are asbestos free.
I will be happy to meet you and share reference documents in
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Public Accounts Committee
& Auditor General (CAG) of India
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance
President of India & Chairman, Rajya Sabha
Lok Sabha, New Delhi
to the President of India
Chief Minister, Government of Bihar
Chief Minister, Government of Tripura
Chief Minister, Government of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister, Government of Tamil Nadu
Chief Minister, Government of Punjab
Chief Minister, Government of Goa
Chief Minister, Government of West Bengal
Chief Minister, Government of Madhya Pradesh
Chief Minister, Government of Odisha
Chief Minister, Government of Jharkhand
Chief Election Commissioner, Election Commission of India
Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs
Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law
Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence
Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs
Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture
Lt Governor, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi
Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh
Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar
Chief Secretary, Government of Chattisgarh
Chief Secretary, Government of Goa
Chief Secretary, Government of Gujarat
Chief Secretary, Government of Haryana,
Chief Secretary, Government of Himachal Pradesh
Chief Secretary, Government of Jammu and Kashmir
Chief Secretary, Government of Jharkhand
Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka
Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala
Chief Secretary, Government of Madhya Pradesh
Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra
Chief Secretary, Government of Odisha
Chief Secretary, Government of Punjab
Chief Secretary, Government of Rajasthan
Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu
Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Secretary, Government of Uttarakhand
Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal
Chief Secretary, Government of Puducherry
Chief Secretary, Government of Arunachal Pradesh
Chief Secretary, Government of Assam
Chief Secretary, Government of Manipur
Chief Secretary, Government of Meghalaya
Chief Secretary, Government of Mizoram
Chief Secretary, Government of Nagaland
Chief Secretary, Government of Sikkim
Chief Secretary, Government of Tripura
Chief Secretary, Government of Andaman and Nicobar (UT)
Administrator, Government of Dadra and Nagar Haveli (UT)
Administrator, Government of Daman and Diu (UT)
Administrator, Government of Lakshadweep (UT)