Shri Devendra Fadnavis
Hon’ble Chief Minister
Government of Maharashtra
6th Floor Mantralaya
Subject- Appreciation for Maharashtra Govt notification on “no use of asbestos” in its 11 regional plans
Dear Shri Fadnavis Jee,
With due respect this is to place on record our appreciation for your government’s notification on “no use of asbestos” in its 11 regional plans in the 23rd year of Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order in Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) Vs Union of India (1995 AIR 922, 1995 SCC (3) 42) that recognized right to health as part of right to life.
Having read your notification issued under Maharashtra Regional & Town Planning Act, 1966 for environment friendly tourism infrastructure underlining “no use of asbestos”, we submit that this step has set an example for centre and other States. This notification has been announced by the Urban Development Department as part of regulations for development of tourism and hospitality services under Community Nation Conservation around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks under Eleven Regional Plans (2011-2031). These eleven regions are Wardha, Bhandara, Gondia, Dhule, Nandurbar, Parbhani, Beed, Hingoli, Usmanabad, Yavatmal and Buldhana of Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad and Amravati Divisions respectively. The Final Regional Plans of the Thane -Palghar-Raigad Region and Nanded regions also make specific reference to “no use of asbestos”.
We submit that Union Ministry of Environment and Forests informed the Parliament that “The UNEP/ILO/WHO in its report on Chrysotile Asbestos (1998) has, inter alia, concluded that exposure to chrysotile asbestos poses increased risks for asbestosis, lung cancer and Mesothelioma in a dose-dependent manner and no threshold has been identified for carcinogenic risks”.
In such a backdrop, it is relevant to recall the asbestos situation in Maharashtra. In a reply dated May 10, 2012, V S Moray, Director, Directorate of Industrial Safety & Health (DISH), Government of Maharashtra has informed that “1. As of today total number of Asbestos manipulating units in the State of Maharashtra are 16 (sixteen) and about 2696 workers are working there in.
2. Directorate of Industrial Safety & Health, Maharashtra is regularly carrying out the medical examination of all workers in these factories. Health register of all these workers are maintained as prescribed under Factories Act 1948.
3. Maharashtra Factories Rules 1963 has a Special Schedule which covers factories using asbestos. The Safety and Health provision of Schedule XVII under rule 114 are scrupulously and periodically monitored by DISH.
4. As per provision of Schedule XVII of Rule 114 of the Maharashtra Factories Rules 1963, monitoring of air for evaluation of airborne asbestos dust is mandatory for these factories. The Industrial Hygiene Laboratory of DISH in the year 2011 has conducted air monitoring survey of 5 factories on sample basis. The asbestos fiber counts are found below permissible exposure limit.
5. Directorate of Industrial Safety & Health has not detected any cases of Asbestosis & mesothelioma so far.
6. To create awareness about Asbestosis & mesothelioma a seminar on “Occupational Lung Diseases” was organized by the Directorate for Authorized Certifying Surgeons, Factory medical officers and Safety Officers.
7. The State Government has already issued a notification in the year 1997, under section 85 of the Factories Act, 1948 for factories using asbestos, which declare that all the provisions of the Act is applied to all places or premises, wherein the handling and processing of Asbestos is done even if the number of workers is less than ten.”
We submit that this reply did not reveal the fact that there are workers in Maharashtra who have been compensated for asbestos related diseases. It has been reported in the newspapers as well. It is quite sad that these victims got meager compensation through out of court settlement.
The ubiquitous nature of asbestos situation is demonstrated best in its expanse and in its density in Maharashtra. There are asbestos factories in the Mumbai, Pune, Kolhapur, Kalyan, Nashik, Thane and Aurangabad region. In Nagpur, Amravati, Navi Mumbai and Raigad region, there is no unit engaged in manufacturing of asbestos but asbestos products are quite visible everywhere. Although Maharashtra Pollution Control Board is aware of the unacknowledged public health crisis that is lurking in the state, it has failed to undertake any action to make the state asbestos free.
We submit the fact that the health records of about 2696 workers working in some 16 factories is yet to be examined. The fact is there 19 factories in the State. Between April‐June 2008, 260 workers were surveyed and PFT tests conducted, 170 workers referred for x‐rays. 45 workers were confirmed for asbestosis. Later 530 workers were surveyed. 92 confirmed cases of absestosis were diagnosed. So far 133 cases have been found to be confirmed cases of asbestosis have been found in this factory, with 2 cases of lung cancer and one case of larynx cancer. Claims were filed in the T&N Trust in the UK for compensation of affected workers. The compensation has been awarded in an out of court arrangement but the compensation amount is too low to be of any real comfort.
We submit that from 1934 to 1994 T&N operated asbestos factories in India. Their Ferodo factory in Mumbai employed 1200 workers. Ninety seven of those workers have now been awarded compensation for their asbestosis caused by exposure to asbestos dust whilst working at the Ferodo Factory. Turner and Newall Ltd. was created in 1920 by the merger of four established UK asbestos firms. T&N played a leading role in the UK asbestos industry. In 1964, a T&N company reorganization brought Hindustan Ferodo into existence. This factory was meant to be similar to T&N's plant in Rochdale, England, which also had a wide range of asbestos products but the experience of Union Carbide Corporation’s subsidiary in Bhopal reveals that such plants are never similar.
We submit that it is the first time that the T and N asbestos trust has paid compensation out to asbestos disease victims in India and it is understood that there may be many more claims for compensation for asbestos related diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestos related pleural thickening. Turner and Newall was the largest UK asbestos company and operated many sites in the UK and abroad. In 2001 this company went set up a fund to pay compensation to asbestos disease victims who had been exposed to asbestos dust by its various companies. In November, 2010, 97 Indian citizens were awarded compensation believed to be in excess of £420,000 from the trust fund set up by UK 27 company Turner and Newall PLC. The total of these claims currently being paid out is Rs 30,458,881. Some 50 claims from among the former workers are being processed.
We submit that Turner & Newall Ltd. (T&N) operated asbestos factories in India for more than 60 years. The company processed asbestos and sold a range of products including asbestos-cement building materials as well as asbestos-containing textiles, jointings, brake linings, friction materials and millboards from sites in Kymore (Madhya Pradesh), Mulund, Sewri and Ghatkopar (Mumbai), Garden Reach (Calcutta) and Podanur (Tamil Nadu). In 1994, T&N sold off its remaining assets in India. Ninety-five of the successful claimants had contracted asbestosis as a result of their employment at the Hindustan Ferodo factory in Mumbai. The other two claimants received compensation for secondary exposure to T&N asbestos such as that which takes place when a wife washes her husband's contaminated work clothes.
We submit that Shri Ravindra Ganpat Mohite, a trade union leader from former T&N company Hindustan Ferodo and an asbestosis sufferer himself has reportedly said, “The receipt of this money marks an important step in workers' rights in India. To our knowledge, this is the first time that Indian workers have obtained compensation for occupational disease sustained at the hands of a foreign employer. Negotiating the bureaucratic process, identifying injured workers, accumulating evidence of employment and obtaining medical diagnoses has been a massive logistical effort. I would like to pay tribute to all those involved in this process including health and safety campaigners in India and the UK, trade unionists, doctors and legal professionals. The receipt of this compensation is an acknowledgment of the wrong which has been done to the workforce and as such is a warning to current employers that they will be held to account for the harm they do to their employees.” The fact remains the meager amounts paid by the T&N trust is an act of adding insult to the injury suffered by the victims of asbestos related diseases. The silence of the State Government in this regard is deafening.
We submit that State Government’s reply to National Human Rights Commission did not reveal the status of the procurement of asbestos based products by the State Government and the residents of the State.
We wish to draw your attention towards the news report "They lied to me for 15 years of my life, says asbestosis-afflicted labourer" (21 July 2014, Sharad Vyas, Mid Day). It has reported how Yogesh Sawant, a worker who was being exposed to asbestos on a daily basis and was repeatedly assured by factory owners and doctors that everything was fine, was diagnosed with asbestosis by NIOH, a central agency.
We submit that this news report quotes the internal report prepared by Shri Moray which reads
“These doctors are repeatedly inspecting the factories with our own team that is monitoring situations in the factory. Yet, this visit by NIOH has exposed our weaknesses and left a big question mark over our inspections, supervision, and medical examination methods. This is a
big embarrassment for Maharashtra.” The 100-odd private doctors are monitored by a single government surgeon, who not only authorizes but performs medical examinations as well. The lone government surgeon for Maharashtra, Dr Atul Band, conducted 2,500 tests last year and confirmed the 13 cases highlighted by the NIOH. “There is a clear nexus of private doctors and factory inspectors. This nexus is just fooling the people of Maharashtra into believing that all is well in our factories and industries. But unfortunately that is not the case,” he is quoted as having said. When he was repeatedly asked to provide details of industrial cases detected by certified private doctors, Moray said: “This is confidential information and not in the public domain, as much as we want to keep things transparent.”
We submit that the NIOH inspection report accessed by Mid-Day under the RTI Act reveals how factory owners and managers were allowed to go scot-free despite violating norms. The inspections revealed that 23 asbestos factories, host to 2,583 workers, and several other factories in the MMR region were not conducting the mandatory membrane filter test to monitor presence of asbestos fibre in the work environment, and were not even conducting awareness training programmes for the workers. The inspections found M/s Ashadeep Frictions, M/s Graphics India (Ambernath), Eastwell Asbestos Industries (Ulhasnagar), Hyderabad Industries (Thane), Mechanical Packaging (Tarapur), Nella Asbestos (Dahanu) and Wilson Products (Kolhapur), not carrying out the all-important membrane tests. Of the seven inspections in Thane, six factories had not organized training programmes for workers — M/s Champion Seals, M/s Mechanical Packaging, M/s Standard Clutches & Spares, M/s Standard Friction, M/s Ashadeep Frictions and Graphics India. The inspections found that nine of asbestosis were detected by NIOH.
We submit that as per the news report State government had ordered an inquiry in all these cases which were first found negative by private doctors. Your government ought to seek the report on the inquiry and initiate action for legal remedy and just compensation to the victims of asbestos related diseases. The news report is available at: http://www.mid-day.com/articles/they-lied-to-me-for-15-years-of-my-life-says-asbestosis-afflicted-labourer/15463184
We submit that these companies should be asked to switch non-asbestos materials in the light of the fact that more than 60 countries have banned white asbestos mineral fibers that causes incurable lung cancer according to World Health Organisation (WHO).
Like other states, Maharashtra does not have environmental and occupational health infrastructure in place to diagnose asbestos related diseases, in such a situation we seek your urgent intervention to safeguard the health of present and future generations.
Kindly allow us to submit the following:
1- Seek a report from all the hospitals about asbestos related victims attended by them and consider issuing an order preparing a list of asbestos laden public buildings in Maharashtra.
2- Seek a database of victims of asbestos related diseases, asbestos laden buildings, an inventory of asbestos based products, a database of hospitals which can diagnose the disease and a database of agencies which are competent to decontaminate asbestos from existing buildings will be help for the present and future generation of Maharashtra residents and will pave the way for other states and the centre.
3- Te database of the workers employed in asbestos based factories and asbestos laden buildings, ships and vehicles must be examined and their health check up by a panel of doctors who can certify asbestos related diseases must be formed to diagnose the diseases.
4- All the medical colleges and hospitals may be asked to submit report on patients who were diagnosed to be exposed to fibers of asbestos. This will help steps in the direction of legal and medical remedy.
5- The roadmap for making Maharashtra India's first asbestos free state must be announced so that other states in general and neighboring states in particular follow this example.
6- As per the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dated January 27, 1995 in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 both central and State Governments were asked to incorporate fresh resolution of ILO in their rules and regulations. Your Government should incorporate the ILO resolution dated June 14, 2006.
7- Your government can set up a committee to incorporate the resolutions of ILO and WHO. Both the resolutions are attached besides 'WHO's outline for the Development of National Programmes for elimination of asbestos related diseases'', 'Report of the World Health Organization workshop on mechanisms of fibre carcinogenesis and assessment of chrysotile asbestos substitutes' and other relevant documents of WHO.
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 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 Maharashtra. This will go a long way in combating fatal diseases caused corporate crimes and in making Maharashtra the first state in the country to adopt zero-tolerance policy towards the killer asbestos fibers.
We will be happy to meet you to share relevant information in this regard.
Thanking you in anticipation.
Dr Gopal Krishna
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)*
Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660,
*Asbestos free India campaign of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) has been working for environmental and occupational health justice for last 17 years.