India

Bihar’s HRC and Asbestos Related Deaths in Bhojpur

Ranjana Bisht for BeyondHeadlines

Recently the Bihar Human Rights Commission (HRC) summons officials to inquire about asbestos related diseases and deaths in Bhojpur, Bihar where asbestos based factory is established. A worker has died in asbestos based factory in Bihiya, Bhojpur, Bihar due to lung related diseases contracted exposure from asbestos fibers that cause incurable diseases. This happens because safe and controlled use of white chrysotile asbestos like its other varieties is impossible which has led to more than 50 countries banning its use.

Photo of ex-worker of Giddha asbestos factory (1)The story is not about a single person but there are many workers who are suffering lot. According to an order given on 28 may 2014, an operation was done by Bihar Human Rights Commission on asbestos based factory Ramco industries in Bihiya, Bhojpur, wherein a worker Sh. Virendra Kumar Singh died a painful death due to lung related disease and consequent contracted exposure from asbestos fibers and that each worker in the factory faces similar fate.

BHRC has asked for responses from (1) Principal Secretary, Industries Dept., Govt. of Bihar (2) Secretary, Pollution Control Board, Bihar (3) District Magistrate, Bhojpur and (4) CMO-cum-Civil Surgeon, Bhojpur. It received preliminary responses from the Industries Dept., and Pollution Control Board, the District Magistrate Bhojpur. But the CMO-cum-Civil Surgeon, Bhojpur have not sent any response that time. Despite Commission’s letter nos. 2020 dt. 25.02.2014, 4593 dt.16.04.2014 and 5743 dt. 21.05.2014.

Both World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) have recommended total elimination of its mining, manufacturing and use. It may be noted that mining of asbestos is technically banned in India but the asbestos based factories procure raw asbestos mineral fiber from countries like Russia. It is one of the pernicious and residual legacies of the old era. The January 27, 1995 and January 21, 2011 orders of Supreme Court make it clear that State Governments and Government of India have to comply with fresh ILO resolution of June 2006 on asbestos.

In fact in the Supreme Court’s judgment of January 27, 1995 in Writ Petition (Civil) No.206 of 1986 [CERC Vs Union of India] that dealt with asbestos exposure, right to health was declared as part of fundamental right to life.

But now when an application was filed seeking Commission’s attention towards the operations of asbestos based factory in Bihiya, Bhojpur, Bihar recently. The Bihar Human Rights Commission has directed the District Magistrate, Bhojpur and CMO-cum-Civil Surgeon, Bhojpur to appear before the Commission on 09th July, 2014 (Wednesday) at 12:00 hrs along with action taken report in the matter.

BHRC seeking its intervention to protect communities in villages around the hazardous industrial units of Ramco Industries in Bihiya and Giddha who cannot be expected to become superior risk bearers unlike villagers of Muzaffarpur and Vaishali where similar plants have been stopped.

When defending the indefensible asbestos factories becomes a compulsion of officialdom, disasters like the one witnessed in the Bhopal chemical factory.

In a nutshell, asbestos fibers used for making asbestos cement roofs etc is a ticking time bomb for lungs which causes preventable but incurable diseases and deaths. So to save life or people it’s necessary to ban it immediately.

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