Skip to main content

India opposes international convention to list asbestos as hazardous substance, invites campaigners' ire

Sharad Sawant in Geneva addressing campaigners
By Our Representative
Reports from Geneva say that India has opposed listing the chrysotile asbestos at a meeting called under the UN auspices to exclude hazardous substances in international trade. The International Ban Asbestos Association (IBAA), a top campaign body, has said that India is the company of such countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Belarus, Sudan and Cuba, all of whom do not want "exclusion" of the hazardous material in world trade.
In a strongly worded criticism of the Indian stance, the French campaign body Association Nationale de Défense des Victimes de l'Amiante (ANDEVA) said, “India is the biggest importer of asbestos."
It underlined, "It is frightening to see that a country which suffered an industrial catastrophe as the tragedy of the Bhopal factory (1984) could choose to protect the commercial interests of a few merchants before the information of its population. By the way the company Union Carbide was one of the giant asbestos companies.”
The Geneva meet was in continuation of the Conference of Parties (called COP7) to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. It is an international grouping of countries that want to control the trade and use of hazardous chemicals and pesticides.
“The reasons given for the veto on listing by the pro-asbestos delegations included the following: there was no adverse health impact of asbestos exposure, asbestos was essential for use by poor people, there was no new scientific evidence supporting inclusion, chrysotile products were less hazardous than the alternatives and it was possible to use chrysotile safely”, said Laurie Kazan-Allen of the IBAA.
Kazan-Allen said, “Although India had at a previous meeting supported the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention, they have re-joined the asbestos refusniks this time round”, adding, “They must have found it quite uncomfortable to do so in the presence of Sharad Vittal Sawant, one of their compatriots whose life has been shattered by asbestosis.”
Speaking at the plenary session, Sawant said, belonging to Mumbai, he worked for 40 years at the factory Hindustan Ferodo (now Hindustan Composites), which uses chrysotile asbestos. “I am suffering from asbestosis and my wife as well. Another 400 of my colleagues have been diagnosed as well. I came here to request you to put chrysotile asbestos in the PIC List of the Rotterdam Convention”, he underlined.
“Sawant’s intervention was greeted with applause from delegates and jeers from at least one industry lobbyist”, Kazan-Allen said on May 13.
Earlier, on May 12, Sawant took part in a “colourful and lively ban asbestos demonstration” in the iconic square outside the conference in La Place de Les Nations. His comments in Marathi and Hindi were translated into English by Pralhad Malvankar, coordinator of the Occupational Health and Safety Centre in Mumbai.
“Against a backdrop of dozens of national flags, he addressed trade unionists, campaigners and other asbestos victims from Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia at the protest organized by the global labor federation IndustriALL, its affiliates from Australian and UK unions and the Building and Wood Workers International”, Kazan-Allen said.
Speaking on the occasion, IndustriALL’s Director of Health, Safety and Sustainability Brian Kohler warned the demonstrators: “Do not be deceived by the lies of the asbestos industry – all forms of asbestos kill. Chrysotile is not somehow magically different from other forms of asbestos, and saying so will not make it so.”
Kazan-Allen commented, “Before COP-7 even began, it was clear that the industry lobby intended to manipulate procedural technicalities to achieve their goals despite the fact that under the terms and rules of the convention, chrysotile should be listed on Annex III.”

Comments

TRENDING

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Gujarat refusal to observe Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day 'discriminatory'

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government decision not to celebrate the National Education Day on !monday has gone controversial. Civil society organizations have particularly wondered whether the state government is shying away from the occasion, especially against the backdrop of "deteriorating" level of education in Gujarat.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.

'Favouring' tribals and ignoring Adivasis? Behind coercion of India's aborigines

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Tribal people account for 8.2% of India’s population. They are spread over all of India’s States and Union Territories. Even so they can be broadly classified into three groupings. The first grouping consists of populations who predate the Indo-Aryan migrations. These are termed by many anthropologists as the Austro-Asiatic-speaking Australoid people.