Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Asbestos Free India campaign of BANI is inspired by trade union movement and right to health campaign. BANI has been working since 2000. It works with peoples movements, doctors, researchers and activists besides trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gujarat ill equipped to handle asbestosis

For the first time in the state, the Industrial Health and Safety Department (IHSD) has said on record that there are about seven companies dealing with asbestos-related products, in reply to a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act filed by Ahmedabad- based activist, Raghunath Manwar. Asbestos is a hazardous material that causes asbestosis. The IHSD has refused to disclose any information about precautions taken against the killer disease.

In another RTI reply to Manwar on March 24, the IHSD has admitted that it has no equipment to detect asbestosis in the state.

Recent replies to Manwar’s RTIs by IHSD and Employees’ State Insurance Corporation India (ESIC) have shown discrepancies in the number of workers or labourers working in companies dealing with asbestos.

Manwar said: “I had asked about the available instruments necessary to detect asbestosis in the state. The IHSD has stated that it has no Chest X-Ray, no Pulmonary Lung Function Test, Sputum test, blood test and urine test facilities available for detection of asbestosis. IHSD has further said that the companies dealing with asbestos are taking preventive measures. However, it has declined to comment on the number of inspections conducted in these companies, calling it classified information.”

The RTI information shared by IHSD mentions the companies dealing with the hazardous material as Sanand Captain Packaging Industries; Gujarat Composite in Kaaligam, Ahmedabad; Gujarat Pressure Pipes Private Limited in Vadsar, Sabarkantha; Ambika Pipes Limited,Vadagam, Sabarkantha; Hindustan Asbestos Pipes, Sabarkantha; Bamco Product India Limited; Everest Industries Limited in Bharuch; and Champion Jointing Private Limited in Valsad with 250 workers.

The companies have refused to comment on the precautions taken against the occupational hazard.

Also, there are a lot of discrepancies in the replies by ESIC and IHSD. The IHSD had claimed in its January reply that there were only 58 workers in companies dealing with asbestos; ESIC said in its reply that there are actually 1,384 labourers.

“The Supreme Court had asked to reduce the number of labourers working in the asbestos product manufacturing companies in 1995, but the number remains same. Where is the change?” Manwar asked.

IHSD Deputy Director P H Patel said: “We don’t have the hygiene lab, but it is the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) that tests asbestosis patients. Our factory inspectors might not have found asbestosis patients so they have not referred them to the NIOH.”

New RTI rules favour information seeker
The State Information Commission will be required to pronounce judgments in open courts now that new rules pertaining to the Right to Information (RTI) Act have been implemented with effect from March 22. The new rules also spell out the procedure of how the commission can act as a civil court.

“The commission can ask for oral or written evidence; it can ask for record or inspection of records. The new rules make public pronouncement compulsory,” said Harinesh Pandya of Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, an NGO that promotes the use of RTI.

In order to benefit the information seeker, the new rules have come up with additional modes of payment. Earlier, payment could be made only through cash, non-judicial stamp, demand draft and bank pay orders. Now, it could be made through non-judicial stamp, electronic franking, judicial stamp paper, Indian Postal Order and revenue stamp.

The applicant can also pay the application fee in an authorised bank or through treasury challan.

Again, it would now be binding on the public information officer to inform the applicant about the required mode of payment. “This will save a lot of time, energy and most importantly, the money for travelling. Earlier, people had to travel to Ahmedabad from as far as Kutch to file an RTI,” said Pandya. The new rules have been published in the government gazette.

Shubhlakshmi Shukla

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