Skip to main content

Madhya Pradesh village sees "slow death" of hundreds of asbestos victims caused by now closed British, Belgian subsidiary

Children amidst asbestos dumping site in Kymore
By Our Representative
Nirmala Gurung, a former school teacher and headmistress in a secondary school, lived near a factory in a big village, Kymore, in Madhya Pradesh which has been making chrysotile or white asbestos products for over 30 years. The factory was previously a subsidiary of the British company Turner, and Newall PLC and the Belgium company ETEX (Eternit).
Nirmala was diagnosed with parenchymal asbestosis in 2016. “During the dry season dry asbestos dust particles even blew into the class rooms”, she says, adding, “Parents and children used to come into the classroom covered with dust. The owners and workers in the UK and Belgium certainly knew about the hazards of asbestos but did not inform the community.”
Parenchymal asbestosis is a lung disease caused by exposure to substantial amounts of asbestosis dust that can quickly lead to lung cancer. In the United Kingdom, it is recorded that thousands of people die from asbestos-related lung cancer every year, decades after its use was stopped.
“I have seen many victims dying slowly and painfully. It’s really horrible to watch a healthy person turn into a skeleton”, she says.
Wanting the future generation to be saved from the deadly disease, she insists, “The first and foremost there is a need for the proper treatment of the asbestos wastage which the factory dumped in the surrounding populated area. Asbestos must be banned and those suffering from asbestos diseases should be compensated.”
On November 27, 2017, Nirmala will be one of the many victims of occupational diseases who will be speaking in front of hundreds of people at the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva. The UN body is the largest global gathering of people interested in ensuring that there is a proper remedy for human rights violations caused by corporations. This year over 2,000 people, including victims, NGOs and corporations will attend. 
Asbestos on surface of village street
Situated some 300 km from Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal, Kymore attracted the attention of health rights NGOs, who organized medical camps in the village in 2013. Over 400 people have so far been been diagnosed and compensated with asbestos-related diseases from a Trust Fund set up after the bankruptcy of Turner and Newall in 2001. 
“The process is on-going, but many will have died without ever knowing that they were affected. Up until 1996, the factory dumped asbestos waste in the surrounding area, including on private land”, says health rights NGO Occupational & Environmental Health Network of India (OENHI), adding, “The factory would dump asbestos waste on 600,000 square metres of land adversely affecting 3000 people, who lived around the site.”
ETEX sold its subsidiary to an Indian company in 2001, shortly before asbestos production was completely banned in Belgium. Now, says OENHI , “Everest Industries Limited is one of India’s largest asbestos-product producers, with 5 factories around India. There are around 250 people working in the factory, who are mostly contract labour.”
Situated in Vijayraghavgarh tehsil in Katni district in central Madhya Pradesh, Kymore has population of around 20,000 people. It houses a cement factory and has marble and bauxite mines, too.
An environmental report by a Canadian company, ECOH, commissioned by the community, found that there was one million tonnes of asbestos-contaminated surface soil in two different sites around the factory; at some places there was 70% asbestos concentration in the soil. Its estimate suggested that it would cost at least $52 million to remediate the site.

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Contempt of court? UP CM taking 'personal vendetta' against Dr Kafeel Khan: Activists

Counterview Desk
Demanding that the Uttar Pradesh government immediately release well-known paediatrician Dr Kafeel Khan, a group of more than 100 academicians, activists, researchers, doctors and lawyers have said in an open letter that he is being “targeted at the behest of the chief minister”, wondering, “When is an act of challenging the government a threat under the National Security Act (NSA)?”

ASI has 'no funds' to protect five centuries old Goa church, a World Heritage Site

Counterview Desk
The century-old All-India Catholic Union (AICU), the largest Laity movement in Asia, has blamed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for neglecting the historic Bom Jesu church by keeping its ceilings  open to the vagaries weather, with no steps  taken to protect the five century old monument from damage on account of impending rains on the lame excuse that there are "no funds". In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, AICU simultaneously asks the Government of India to devise a "comprehensive" national social security safety net, universal health Insurance and medical Infrastructure so that the “calamity” that has befalenl millions of migrant labour and jobless rural and urban poor in “the Covid pandemic-driven lockdown is “never repeated.”

Withdraw sedition charges against three young women activists: 1100 feminists

Counterview Desk
About 1,100 feminists from all over India – organisations and individuals across religion, class, caste, ethnicity, ability, sexuality and genders – have issued a solidarity statement condemning what they have called “the targeted crackdown on Muslims and women activists in Delhi”, who were at the forefront of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Will Govt of India, ICMR end 'perverse' practice of extracting profits from ill-health?

By Asmita Verma, Surabhi Agarwal, Bobby Ramakant*
The Epidemics Act, 1897 gives the central and state governments authority to impose any regulations which may be necessary to contain the outbreak of a disease. Some state governments such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh have already used this power to bring private healthcare facilities in their state under government control.

Tablighis or Namaste Trump? Rupani must 'clarify' on origin of Covid-19 in Gujarat

By Mujahid Nafees* In his video communication on April 24, 2020, chief minister Vijay Rupani informed us that in the month of March the Gujarat government had quarantined 6,000 people returning from abroad in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. He further asserted that the spread of Covid-19 was caused by the tablighis returning from Nizamuddin in Delhi. His statements were widely publicized and given front page coverage by some local dailies.

Coping with Covid-19? Options before small, marginal farmers of rainfed regions

By Biswanath Sinha, Kuntal Mukherjee*
The global crisis due to Covid-19 has hit after reaching in western Europe. India’s response to curtail the spread of the disease was quite decisive. It announced a Janata curfew on the March 22, followed by a complete national lockdown from the midnight of March 24.

'Violation' of migrant workers' human rights: Legal notice to IIM-A director, govt babus

By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to the police action against protesting migrant workers off the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) on May 18, senior Gujarat High Court advocate Anandvardhan Yagnik, in a legal notice to the IIM-A director "on their behalf" has said that the workers had only been seeking to to go back to their home states, Jharkhand and West Bengal, for the last more than 20 days because they were not paid their “earned wages because of the lockdown.”