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, January 9, 2011

Lathi Charge in Biharو Help Needed to Stop Killer Asbestos Plants


Smt Sonia Gandhi
National Advisory Council
Member of Parliament
New Delhi 110011

Subject-Lathi Charge in Bihar, Help Needed to Stop Killer Asbestos Plants


This is with reference to the gun firing on the villagers who are protesting since May 2010 against the proposed asbestos cement roofing sheet factory in Vishunpur-Chainpur village, Marwan block, Muzaffarpur, Bihar. The raw material of the proposed factory- asbestos — the magic mineral, paradoxically known by its more sinister monikers of the “killer dust” and “the silent time-bomb.” In the firing by the private army of Kolkata-headquartered Balmukund Cement & Roofing Ltd which on 13th December, 2010 at least 10 people were injured. Following which the District administration stopped the construction work at the factory.

On 9th January, when a delegation of Asbestos Virodhi Nagrik Manch, Patna comprising of doctors, professors and journalists visited the site and started taking testimonies of the villagers adjoining the factory site, the police resorted to lathi charge at the behest of the company displaying manifest collusion of the District administration. The villagers sat on a dharna (sit in) demanding scrapping of the asbestos projects. The villagers rited to meet Mr Anand Kishore, District Magistrate, Muzaffarpur to lodge a complaint but he was unavailable and had kept his mobile switched off. A fax has been sent to the DM. The SP refused to intervene saying the police action happened at the behest of the Collector.

Asbestos Virodhi Nagrik Manch led by Dr Satyajit Singh has condemned the police action against peaceful villagers and underlined the fact that the district administration is hand in glove with the asbestos company. They met veteran socialist leader and ideologue Sachchidanand Sinha who is leading the ban asbestos struggle and the Khet Bachao Jeewan Bachao Jansangharsh Committee.

If the proposed 3, 00,000 tonnes per annum (TPA)-project flags off, the country could very well have its own version of a ‘Turner & Newall' asbestos epidemic (Once the world's largest asbestos conglomerate, T&N exposed millions to a lethal carcinogen).

The protestors have been demanding withdrawal of fake criminal cases against the convenors of the ban asbestos struggle in the village who are in jail. The protest would continue until there demands were accepted by the Bihar government.

I am attaching a letter of Dr Barry Castleman who has authored the most authoritative book asbestos titled "Asbestos: Medical & Legal Aspects' which is currently in its Fifth Edition.

Dr Castleman has sent a similar letter to Mr Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of Environment & Forests. This letter is attached.

I am also attaching few pictures of the protest against the asbestos plant in Chainpur-Bishunpur, Marwan Block, Muzaffarpur underway since May 2010.

The letter of Dr Castleman is significant because he has given testimony before the US Senate Committee On Environment And Public Works public health issues related to asbestos exposure in America. The testimony is attached.

His testimony contributed to to the passage of the "Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007" on October 4, 2007 by the United States Senate. It was a unanimous voice vote and the bill now goes to the House of Representatives. This bill stops distribution of asbestos-containing materials including brake pads and roofing items that contain asbestos. The federal government would also expand research into diseases caused by asbestos exposure, particularly mesothelioma, asbestosis, and pleural injuries.

Dr Castleman has helped prepare the World Bank's Asbestos Guidance Note May 2009 as well. The Asbestos Guidance Note is also attached.

I also wish to draw your attention towards the recent disbursal of a meager amount of Rs 3 crore as compensation to 95 former asbestos workers – and in two cases their spouses –by a UK company which manufactured asbestos products at its Ghatkopar plant, Mumbai on 23rd December, 2010. This compensation was given because the nature of their work was responsible for them suffering from asbestosis, a dangerous lung infection that could lead to cancer. These workers were formerly employed with Hindustan Composites Ltd in which UK-based M/s Turner & Newall were one of the major share-holders. A case is still pending in the labour court at Mumbai. This British multinational company wound up its operations and has set up a trust fund to settle claims for asbestos related diseases from all over the world.

It is noteworthy that Dr Castleman has been writing against Maharashtra and Gujarat asbestos plants at least since 1981. He had reviewed the "extraordinary portrait of evil in the business world documented in "Magic mineral to killer dust: Turner & Newall and the asbestos hazard" giving an account of the UK asbestos scandal in The Lancet, the world's leading general medical journal and specialty journals in Oncology, Neurology and Infectious Diseases in its September 2, 2000 issue. In his article titled " Export of Hazards:The Double Standard in Industrial Hazards" published in the September 1984 issue of Multinational Monitor was an eye opener. The

Dr Castleman is the leading asbestos experts for both plaintiff and defense attorneys, occupational and environmental health professionals, as well as others in the field of toxic substances control, his book "Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects" has become the definitive resource on the medical and legal aspects of asbestos.

The villagers of Chainpur-Bishunpur, Marwan, Muzaffarpur have given a 24 page written submission to Mr Kundan Kumar, Sub Divisional Officer (SDO), Muzaffarpur (West) with a copy to District Magistrate, Muzaffarpur on 28/12/2010 providing details of their struggle and giving seven reasons for their opposition to the proposed asbestos plant.

The reasons mentioned in the submission are as follows:

1. Balmukund Cement and Roofing Ltd, Bihar started the construction without taking villagers into confidence about the hazards from asbestos. The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report was not made available in Hindi. This EIA report is factually incorrect. The Public Hearing which was conducted was fake. It is now learnt that almost all the provisions of the EIA Notification, 2006 have been violated.
2. The problem of asbestos related diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer is a cause of serious concern. All forms of Asbestos including the “chrysotile” (White) Asbestos to be used in the factory is carcinogenic in nature.
3. The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 is pending in the Rajya Sabha
4. Orders of National Human Rights Commission, Kerela Human Rights Commission and the application to the Bihar State Human Rights Commission
5. Letter dated 24 December from Dr Sanjay Chaturvedi, Head, Dept of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Delhi, Delhi on the subject of asbestos hazards
6. International experience on asbestos issue and World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), representing 176 million workers in 151 countries have all called for an end to the use of any form of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos, which represents 100% of the global asbestos trade.
7. National Experience with Asbestos Industry

Notably, it was the students of these villages who taught the villagers from their text book of Biology and Chemistry of Class Xth and XIIth, which revealed that asbestos causes incurable diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The Class XIIth textbook is titled Inter Rasayan at page no. 2-345 categorically says, “Asbestos is a particulate pollutant of the atmosphere. In the process of preparation of asbestos sheet, the asbestos particles become airborne. If one breathes such air for a long period it causes asbestosis disease”.

It is germane to note that as early as May & July 2010 Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi had informed Mr A M Mauskar, Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests and pointed out manifest violation of Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 in the matter of the proposed asbestos plant by the Balmukund company.

In view of Dr Castleman's letter and in the interest of the public health of the present and future generation of Bihar, I urge you to intervene to stop the construction of the proposed asbestos cement roofing sheet factory in Chainpur, Muzaffarpur and proposed similar plants in Bihiya, Bhojpur, in Panapur, Vaishali and elsewhere in the state. Similar steps are required for other states as well.

I hope that you will act to protect the villagers from the poisonous plant and not the poisonous plant.

Thanks & Regards
Gopal Krishna
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
New Delhi
Mb: 09818089660, 07739308480


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Dr P L Ahuja Rai, Director (Scientific), Cement Plants, Ministry of Environment & Forests

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