Shri Subhash Sharma,
Department of Labour
Government of Bihar
August 8, 2013
Subject-Bhojpur’s Asbestos factories in violation of Supreme Court order dated January 27, 1995 in Asbestos Case
This is to inform you that even as the doctor of Ramco asbestos company’s factory continues to refuse to share the heath records of workers with them, the strike by workers in Bhojpur’s Bihiya has entered 7th day amidst demand for the closure of killer asbestos factory as it poses threat to villagers in its vicinity. Earlier also the workers of these factories were on strike on July 30, 2012 demanding medical attention. This was communicated by Block Development Officer, Bihiya, Bhojpur on August 1, 2012 to Sub Divisional Officer, Jagdishpur, Bhojpur. The workers are again on strike for the last 7 days.
In contempt of Supreme Court’s order dated January 27, 1995, the company 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’s doctor Dr Radhey Shyam Singh is not even qualified in occupational health to undertake these tasks.
I submit that 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.
In Bhojpur’s Bihiya, the two plants have been set up with a 120,000 MT/Annum capacity of Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and 2 00000 MT/Annum capacity of Asbestos Grinding Plant. The total project area is 20 acres and land is allotted by the state government on lease for 90 years. In the minutes dated May 10, 2010, Experts Appraisal Committee (EAC), Industrial Projects made explicit reference to “Health Management Plan for Mesothalimoa, Lung cancer and Asbestosis related problems in asbestos industries”.
The plants have been established by Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries Ltd. The second plant at Bihiya does not seem to have the clearance or consent to establish still it is operating. The legal status of the second plant at the same site with a 2 Lakh MT/Annum Capacity of Cement Grinding Plant remains questionable.
I submit that in an ongoing case in the Patna High Court all three plants of asbestos plants of Bhojpur including the one at Giddha, Koilwar are being cited to challenge State Government’s cancellation of asbestos based factory in Vaishali. The matter will be heard again on 13th of August, 2013 in the Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.9064 of 2013.
I submit that Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) which is operating an asbestos factory at Giddha, Koilwar, Bhojpur too is not complying with the Hon’ble Court’s order. The plant’s location behind a B Ed College is a constant threat to human health. It may be noted that District Magistrate, Bhojpur has undertaken a probe of this factory along with a team of district administration in compliance of orders from the State Government.
He was informed that the factory is running with conducting any public hearing. In June 2013 a worker was crushed to death in this very factory. The District Magistrate, Bhojpur undertook a visit to the plant against the backdrop of this incident. The company should be asked for a list of workers employed in the factory, their health records and name and qualification of the doctor assigned to undertake their health checkup.
I submit that the attached order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court reads: “All the industries are directed
(1) To maintain and keep maintaining the health record of every worker up to a minimum period of 40 years from the beginning of the employment or 15 years after retirement or cessation of the employment whichever is later;
(2) The Membrane Filter test, to detect asbestos fibre should be adopted by all the factories or establish- ments at par with the Metalliferrous Mines Regulations, 1961; and Vienna Convention and Rules issued thereunder;
(3) All the factories whether covered by the Employees State Insurance Act or Workmen's Compensation Act or otherwise are directed to compulsorily insure health coverage to every worker;
(4) The Union and the State Governments are directed to review the standards of permissible exposure limit value of fibre/cc in tune with the international standards reducing the permissible content as prayed in the writ petition referred to at the beginning. The review shall be continued after every 10 yews and also as an when the I.L.O. gives directions in this behalf consistent with its recommendations or any Conventions;
(5) The Union and all the State Governments are directed to consider inclusion of such of those small scale factory or factories or industries to protect health hazards of the worker engaged in the manufacture of asbestos or its ancillary produce;
(6) The appropriate Inspector of Factories in particular of the State of Gujarat, is directed to send all the workers, examined by the concerned ESI hospital, for re-examination by the National Institute of Occupational Health to detect whether all or any of them are suffering from asbestosis. In case of the positive Ending that all or any of them ant suffering from the occupational health hazards, each such worker shall be entitled to compensation in a sum of rupees one lakh payable by the concerned factory or industry or establishment within a period of three months from the date of certification by the National Institute of Occupational Health.”
I submit that the last direction creates a logical compulsion for Inspector of Factories of the State of Bihar to get the workers of Bihiya based asbestos factory examined for asbestos related diseases and ensure enhanced and just compensation for them.
I wish to draw your attention towards the fact sheet of World Health Organization (WHO) available on asbestos:http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs343/en/index.html It re-iterates that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos and specifically states that its strategy is particularly targeted at countries still using chrysotile asbestos. The factsheet notes that “more than 107 000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure.”
I submit that in compliance of the Hon’ble Court’s order the work of WHO and International Labour Organization (ILO) must be taken cognisance of by Bihar Government in its efforts towards elimination of asbestos-related diseases “by recognizing that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos and by providing information about solutions for replacing asbestos with safer substitutes and developing economic and technological mechanisms to stimulate its replacement.” The relevant ILO resolution and WHO document is attached.
I submit that the concept paper by Union Ministry of Labour presented at the 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on “Occupational Safety and Health” saying "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." It has noted that "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". The paper is attached and is available here: http://labour.nic.in/upload/
uploadfiles/files/Divisions/ LC%26ILAS/Background%20note. pdf
It may be noted that Supreme Court’s judgment of January 27, 1995 in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 refers to the book of Dr Castleman, at paragraph 18, reads: “In Asbestos Medical and Legal Aspects by Barry I. Castleman at p.10 had stated that Dr. Merewether following the diagnosis by Homburter in his coincidence of Primary Carcinoma at the Lungs and Pulmonary Asbestos 1943 stated that fibrosis of the lungs as it occurs among asbestos workers as the slow growth of fibrous tissue (scar tissue) between the air cells of the lungs whenever the inhaled dust comes to rest. While new fibrous tissue is being laid down like a spider's web that deposited earlier gradually contract. This fibrous tissue is not only useless as a substitute for the air cells, but with continued inhalation of the causative dust, by its invasion of new territory and consolidation of that already occupied, it gradually, and literally strangles the essential tissues of the lungs.”
I submit that in compliance with the Hon’ble Court’s order Union Ministry of Labour & Employment has constituted an Advisory Committee to implement the order.
It may be recalled that Justice (Retd) Rekha Kumari, Patna High Court has advised 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 as per Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order in her attached lecture on December 24, 2012 at A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna. Shri Awadesh Narain Singh, Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council on December 24, 2012 contended that “buying asbestos is buying akin to buying cancer. I will get asbestos removed from my residence” at this very conference. He added, “the ache of asbestos hazards is worse than the ache of unemployment.” The video documentation of his speech is available on www.youtube.com.
I submit that asbestos based plants have already been stopped by the villagers of Muzaffarpur and Vaishali. Human biology is same everywhere, how can same thing be deemed poisonous and hazardous in one district and non-poisonous and non- hazardous in Bhojpur.
It may be noted that Chairperson, Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) has cancelled the consent to establish given to West Bengal based Utkal Asbestos Company in Vaisahli. This was undertaken as a follow up of instruction from the Hon’ble Chief Minister dated February 13, 2013. Its cancellation order is attached.
I am an applicant in the related matter in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) seeking environmental and occupational health justice for the workers, their families and consumers who are becoming victims of incurable asbestos related diseases
In view of the above, I wish to request you to urgently intervene in the matter of ongoing strike in Bhojpur’s plants in Bihiya to ensure that workers’ health is protected and to ensure compliance of Hon’ble Court’s order at Gidhha based plant as well.
Occupational Health India (OHI)
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Dr. Mrutyunjay Sarangi, Secretary, Union Ministry of Labour
Shri Anup Chandra Pandey Chairman, Advisory Committee on Asbestos, Union Ministry of Labour
Dr. R.B. Raidas, Dy.Director General, Directorate General, Factory Advice and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI)
Dr Vyasji Mishra, Principal Secretary, Health, Government of Bihar
Dr. V.M. Katoch, Secretary, Department of Health Research & Director General Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Prof. Subhash Chandra Singh, Chairman, Bihar State Pollution Control Board
Dr. G.K. Rath, Head of Department of Radio Oncology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)Shri, Suresh Kumar Sinha, Labour Commissioner, Department of Labour, Government of Bihar Shri Abhimanyu Sharma, Lawyer, Patna High Court