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 23, 2011

Marwan asbestos saga takes ugly turn

Marwan asbestos saga takes ugly turn

Shoumojit Banerjee
Patna: The battle over the proposed asbestos factory in the village of Bishnupur-Chainpur in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district took yet another sordid turn on Saturday as the district police resorted to lathi-charge and firing to disperse the demonstrators, injuring at least a dozen villagers, four of them women.

The village, which falls under Muzaffarpur's Marwan lock, has been on the boil since July with villagers and activists consistently opposing the construction of Kolkata-based Balmukund Cement and Roofing Ltd (BCRL)'s 31 crore factory, alleging flagrant violation of procedural norms and non-disclosure of health hazards on part of the company management.

The incident took place in the afternoon when a large group of villagers sat on a ‘dharna' to protest against the construction of the company.

“It was then that the district police beat up some of the villagers, while lobbing tear gas shells to disperse them. When a large crowd of residents gathered to protest [against] this, the police resorted to firing,” said Ram Naresh Prasad Singh, convener of the Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, a local forum set up to combat the asbestos threat on the district.

The injured villagers have been admitted to a local district hospital.

The Muzaffarpur District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police have not reacted to the incident, despite efforts to contact them.

“The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had warned the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on Monday that there was a strong possibility of a bloodbath in Bishnupur-Chainpur if present conditions are allowed to persist,” said Mr. Gopal Krishna, Convener of the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI).

Despite assurances by Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh to look into the matter, this is the second such incident in a month after villagers alleged firing by company-hired minions to disrupt proceedings in December.

The MoEF had given environmental clearance to BCRL in October 2010.

Angry protests

Apart from Chainpur, there have been angry protests by villagers and activists against the two asbestos plants to be set up in Bhojpur district as well.

The first such plant is to be set up by Chennai-based Ramco Industries Ltd. in Bhojpur's Bihiya block. The proposal is to establish a 120,000 MT/annum capacity of Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and a 2 lakh MT/annum capacity of Asbestos Grinding Plant at Industrial Area.

The second one, a 1 Lakh MT Capacity Asbestos Fiber Cement Corrugated Sheet, is to be set up by the Chennai-based Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd at Giddha in Ara.

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