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Five killed at Alang shipbreaking yard, but authorities in Gujarat refuse action against past culprits: TWA

During a 2012 accident at Alang
By Our Representative
Top environmental group Toxics Watch Alliance (TWA) has quoted "authentic sources" to say that as many as five workers, all of them migrants, were crushed to death at the Alang Shipbreaking Yard, along the beach of Bhavnagar in Gujarat, as a result of an accident at Plot No 20.This is against the official sources who said only two have died in an accident on march 11 late evening. TWA’s Gopal Krishna has reported, “I spoke to the officials in Gujarat and have reliably learnt that a total of 5 workers suffered during the fatal  accident after an iron plate fell on them.” He adds, “Three other workers are also in a critical condition and have been admitted in a private hospital in Bhavnagar by the plot holder.”
The two workers who died were identified as belong to the Ganjam district of Odisha -- Panshu Pradhan Bhaskar Pradhan, 26, and Bishwanath Gulabbhai Gaud, 30. Following the incident, in a letter to Vinod Kumar Thakral, chairman, Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Shipbreaking, Union Ministry of Steel, and chairman, National Human Rights Commission, TWA said, the accident was “in violation of the 74 page long Code on Regulations for Safe and Environmentally Sound Ship Recycling of Government of India.”
Asking the IMC chairman and the NHRC chairman to ensure that agencies like the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, the department of industry and the department of labour of the Gujarat government "ought to be made accountable with exemplary compensation to set matters right", TWA said, "If the Gujarat government was sensitive it would have ensured that no deaths happened." It should have "re-opened the old cases of occupational deaths on the Alang beach to set matters right."
Demanding that the plots which are accident prone be closed with immediate effect, the TWA said, the migrant workers deserve both medical and legal remedy besides just compensation. There were 10 deaths in 2013. The last one last year was on December 6, 2013 after an iron plate fell on a worker's head. "The accident took place on Plot No 2 of the yard located at Alang beach. He was immediately taken to a private hospital at Bhavnagar where he was declared dead. It has not come to light as to what did Gujarat government do to ensure justice to the worker", TWA wondered.
Pointing out that during 2001 to March 2014, there have been some 200 deaths without anyone being made accountable or liable, the TWA said, "The ongoing deaths are of migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha on Alang beach, Bhavnagar, but nothing has been done to arrest these preventable deaths."
Signed by Gopal Krishna, the letter by TWA said, “It is quite outrageous that the GMB’s Ship Recycling Regulations, 2006 has not been revised in the light of the Supreme Court's order and the recommendations of court's Inter-Ministerial Committee and the court's Dr Prodipto Ghosh Committee. The compensation regime under the Ship Recycling Regulations, 2006 is outdated and has not been inflation adjusted.”
Quoting the Port Officer, Gopal Krishna said, in case of fatal accident, the permission holder is obliged to pay Rs 1 lakh to the GMB by way of penalty. The amount has to be deposited in the Workers’ Welfare Fund maintained by the GMB. Also, the permission holder would have to pay Rs 2 lakh to the heirs of the deceased person who has lost his life in the accident.
He reminded the authorities the Draft Code's section on miscellaneous and penalty provisions says that "the ship-recycler shall immediately pay a minimum ex-gratia compensation of Rs2 lakh per person or more as decided by the state maritime board or the port authority/ port trust from time to time to the next kin of the deceased, and Rs 50,000 per case or more as may be decided by the board from time to time to the injured victim, over and above the compensation that may be received by the kin from claims under the Workman Compensation Act and Employee State Insurance Scheme (ESIC)."
"This provision has been inhumanly omitted by the GMB due to the tremendous influence of ship-breakers", Gopal Krishna said. "The IMC must revisit this section and consider recommending its inclusion as provided in the Draft Code with more stringent provisions". He added, whatever "monetary compensation" is entitled right now is "hardly sufficient to deal with these ongoing deaths of migrant workers on Gujarat's Alang beach in Bhavnagar".
Pointing towards how evase authorities are about the latest accident, Gopal Krishna said, "I spoke to Mr P D Vyas, Chief Fire Officer, Alang, on March 12, 2014 who stated that there was no fire accident in this case." This calls for "examining reports of criminal prosecution in the present case of March 11, 2014 and in the previous cases", he insisted, adding, "There is an urgent need to issue notices to Government of Gujarat, Government of Odisha, Union Ministry of Labour and Union Ministry of Steel".
Referring to the Supreme Court judgment dated September 6, 2007 in Writ Petition (Civil) no. 657 of 1995, the environmentalist said, the district collector, Bhavnagar "has to ensure that dismantling takes place as per a dismantling in keeping with its directions." But "sources have revealed that in disregard to the court's order so far the district collector has chosen not to be associated with the dismantling process. Such non-compliance is unpardonable but appears routine."

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