Skip to main content

Industrial fires, blasts are new normal in 'vibrant' Gujarat: Disasters in motion?

By Jagdish Patel, Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant* 
On June 2, 2022 Gohil had returned his home in Nandesari after daylong work. He suddenly heard a big noise, and he saw people around him running for shelter. It was blast followed by fire in Deepak Nitrite. Before the ink dried, we heard about another blast and fire -- in Valiant Organic in Sarigam industrial area in Valsad. 
This is a new normal. Keep yourself ready for such breaking news at regular intervals.
The Director Industrial Safety and Health (DISH), previously known as the Factory Inspectorate, is made defunct in terms of number of inspectors employed, powers to the inspectors to inspect the workplaces to monitor enforcement of the law, their training and documentation. Clearly it is result of the political will of the political class in general and the Government in specific.
Governments have succeeded in making the society defunct: No independent credible expert agencies to investigate the pollution, health and Safety issues inside the industries.
Health, safety and environment – within the workplace and outside are not the priorities for either the industries or the Governments. While the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) monitors pollution levels outside the industry premise, the DISH has a responsibility to monitor pollution within the workplace, help workers keep good health and reduce numbers of accidents to minimum. Seemingly, both these departments serve their masters, not the society, though in any democratic society ultimately it is society which should be master.
Why do we see an increase in industrial accidents? There will be and may be specific causes in each incident. But broadly it is the result of conducive social environment created by the people in power.
They want more FDI and to attract investment on one hand they convince the investor that there will be no inspectors at your doors either to ask for bribe or for monitoring labor law implementation. 
They want to jump the credit for ease of doing business rank in competition with other countries. Policies are framed to suit the industry. Inspectors are now not allowed to visit any factory at their will. Instead, industry itself is inspector by way of introducing self-certification scheme.
No, they don’t stop there. They are assured, there will be no prosecution in case of accident. Our judiciary is burdened. So it helps both. Government of Gujarat has a very unique policy. Following a fatal accident if the employer pays ex-gratia compensation to the victim, there will be no prosecution and if any cases have been filed, it will be withdrawn. CAG criticised this policy in its report.
Even when they prosecute, they are careful. They see to it that the prosecutions are filed under the sections which would draw minimum fine. Post-Bhopal when Factory Act was amended, Sec 96 A was inserted: Penalty for  contravention of  the provisions of sections 41B, 41C and 41H.
In their report the Government of Gujarat submitted to the DGSAFLI (Ministry of Labour, Central government) in year after year they report that they have not filed any prosecutions under Sec.96-A
In short there is no fear of law and poor governance create an conducive social environment for accidents.
Trade unions have been weakened as part of political will and policy. Workers have lost whatever little control they had over their plants
But this is not all. There are other aspects, too.
Though the primary objective of any Government is to provide rule of law by enforcing existing laws. In last several years the capital has seen that the Government cease. We have a law called Contract Labour (Monitoring and Abolition) Act 1972.
 Contract workers cannot be employed for routine regular manufacturing activities but there is no will on part of the government to enforce the law and as a result we see that the number of contract workers outnumber the permanent workers. Inexperienced contract workers handle the hazardous plants putting everyone’s safety at stake.
When there are no permanent workers there are no unions. Neither industry nor government want strong militant unions. Post-new economic policy trade unions have been weakened as part of political will and policy. So whatever little control the workers had over their plants they have lost.
Specific reasons can be lack of regular shut down for routine maintenance to maximise production and  profits.  Out sourcing of crucial work to the contractors further aggravates in absence of robust monitoring mechanism. 
Post accident who all investigate to find out the causes? Police? No. Their responsibility is limited to see if there was any criminal intent. When it is confirmed that there was no criminal element the investigation is done by the specialised agency called DISH. 
They prepare reports submitted to the department which are kept hidden from the people. These reports are not in public domain. When you ask for reports you may be given much diluted reports. So, the documentation is poor, lack technical expertise and even that weak report is kept hidden. 
No accountability for the Industries and Department Industrial Health and Safety Department. Neither the Factories Act nor the Environment Protection Act are implemented in letter and spirit, and criminal prosecution provisions are not used against the top officials of the industries.
No serious follow up after the incidents. There is a need to review and evaluate all such incidences every 5 years to understand the reasons and systemic action based on that as a matter of the system.
Just condemning the disasters and demanding the compensation will not solve the problem nor stop the disaster.
---
*Jagdish Patel is health and safety expert; Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant are environmentalists based in Gujarat

Comments

TRENDING

North Gujarat gram panchayat bars villagers from dealing with Muslim hawkers, traders

By Our Representative  A gram panchayat in North Gujarat has barred its residents not to buy anything from Muslim traders and hawkers. An order of the Waghasan group gram panchayat of Tharad taluka of Banaskantha district dated June 30 states that the decision has been taken in the wake of beheading of a Hindu tailor after he posted a derogatory writeup on Prophet Mohammad in Udaipur. The gram panchayat resolution says, anyone seen buying or selling any commodity from a Muslim hawker or trader would be fined Rs 5,100. Bringing this to light, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, says, the state government should take legal action against the panchayat chief who has signed the “unjust” order. The letter says, the act of the sarpanch and other signatories is a violation of rule of law of the state and threat to peace, pointing out, the move is in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution, which says that none

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Protesters demand release of Teesta Setalvad, Sreekumar, seek review of SC order

By Our Representative  Protests broke out across India on June 27 following Teesta Setalvad’s arrest demanding her immediate release. Sabrang India , a site run by Setalvad, claimed she was “arrested on trumped-up charges after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition moved by Zakia Jafri demanding an investigation into the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat violence.” The protesters also demanded release of former DGP Gujarat police RB Sreekumar, also arrested simultaneously. The protests were preceded by over 2,200 people from across the globe signing a statement demanding their immediate release. Leading signatories such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) general secretary V Suresh, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) convenor Medha Patkar, former Naval chief Admiral Ramdas. “The state has used the observations made in the judgment to falsely and vindictively prosecute those who had struggled for justice even in the face of state callousness and complicit

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara 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".

Electoral bonds scheme 'compromises' voluntary nature PM relief fund donations

By Rosamma Thomas*  The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is meant to collect voluntary donations from the general public, either individuals or organizations, to enable assistance to people in times of natural disaster, or for expensive medical treatment. That fundamental voluntary character of the fund, however, has changed in recent years.  The gazette notification of January 2018 announcing the Electoral Bond scheme states, in Clause 12 (2): “The amount of bonds not encashed within the validity period of fifteen days shall be deposited by the authorized bank to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund”. The Union government has, thus, through notification, directed funds to be deposited into what was meant to be purely voluntary. Commodore Lokesh Batra, who has been campaigning for transparency in government functioning, holds that once a gazette notification has been issued directing that funds be deposited into the PMNRF, the character of the whole fund has changed,

'Highly abnormal': AltNews journo's arrest suggests 'deterioration in media freedom'

By Bharat Dogra*  Leading media organizations have come out in strong support of recently arrested journalist Mohammed Zubair. These organizations include, among others, the Editors Guild of India, the Press Club of India, the Delhi Union of Journalists and DIGIPUB, a platform for several important digital media organizations. All these organizations have condemned the recent arrest of the noted journalist and demanded his immediate release. While leading human rights organizations and political parties have also made somewhat similar statements, the strong support of media organizations is particularly important as the effort of the authorities has been to try to present the arrested journalist as someone who has been indulging in irresponsible journalism.  In such a situation the support of those media organizations who are familiar with his work and who are most capable of judging the quality of his work is very important. In this context it is important that some media organization

Majoritarian silence helping Hindutva forces 'handover' national resources to corporates

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The majority of Indian citizens are witnessing the persecution and everyday violence against their fellow citizens who are Muslims and religious minorities. The growing assaults on reason, science, secularism, Indian democracy and constitution are going to be landmarks in Indian history of diminishing democracy and citizenship rights. It is clear that Hindutva ideology is directly promoting sectarian politics of hate which is dangerous for the unity and integrity of India, peace and prosperity of Indians. The majoritarian silence helps in empowering Hindutva and their electoral dividends. From witnessing the persecution in the sidelines to the active participation and cheering loud or silence accelerates violence against our neighbours and our fellow citizens. How and why do majority of Indians stay silent and contribute to the persecution of their fellow citizens who are Muslims and religious minorities? The question baffles me as an Indian because I have gr

Electricity Bill: Centre's reform measures contain 'carrot and stick package' for states

Counterview Desk  The Peoples’ Commission on Public Sector and Public Services (PCPSPS), claiming to be a network of eminent academics, jurists, erstwhile administrators, trade unionists and social activists, seeking consultations with stakeholders with those who are against the government’s decision to monetise, disinvest and privatise public assets/enterprises, has said that the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill-2022 will have far-reaching impacts on the finances of states. Insisting that the proposed Bill would lead to “assault on India’s federal structure”, in a statement, it says, it would weaken the finances of states’ power distribution companies, have adverse impact on utility employees, cripple the states' finances, impose a heavy cost burden on the smaller subsidized consumers (especially farmers), and benefit only corporate business houses. “States cannot afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of the Bill on their economy, finances, agricultural and industria

Cops 'refuse to register' complaint after BSF shot landless worker off Bangla border

By Our Representative  Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convener, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), in a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), referring to the incident of “firing and execution” of a poor Muslim youth, has alleged that the 26 year old was was shot at “without giving any warning” one and half kilometers inside the Indian territory from Bangladesh border by an on- duty Border Security Force (BSF) personnel. Stating that the person, Ruhul Mondal, belonged to an Other Backward Class (OBC), and hailed from Ramnarayan Para village under Sagarpara police station in Murshidabad district, West Bengal, Roy in his representation said, the BSF person who shot at him is “attached with Singpara Border Outpost, 141 Battalion”, underlining, the BSF has now floated “self defense theory” to cover up its operation. According to the BSF officials, the incident took place in the jute fields in