Escalation of Ban Asbestos Mobilization in India
Grassroots efforts by local people and trade unionists are bearing fruit in the fight to ban asbestos in India, according to reports received today (August 17) from colleagues in Orissa, an Eastern Indian State. After a week-long blockade of the Visaka asbestos plant at Parmanpur, production has ground to a halt as lorry-loads of raw material remain parked outside the factory. According to an informed source, the protest has been mounted by farmers whose land had been forcefully occupied by Visaka.
Last week (August 11), members of the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) and the IndustriALL Global Union organized an asbestos seminar in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa State, during which demands were made for asbestos to be banned. The participation in this event of top-level representatives of major Indian trade unions and the presence of a hundred delegates were visible manifestations of the concern felt regarding the occupational asbestos hazard.
The one-day seminar was opened by Rajendra Prasad Singha, the President of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha umbrella group representing Indian trade unions; in his remarks, the speaker highlighted the need to protect workers' health and safety from a range of hazards including asbestos. Echoing his comments, State Labor Minister Bijayashree Routray said:
Asbestos has its hazards and several countries have pursued bans but at the same time stressed that alternate material should be developed on a large scale which could replace Asbestos.1
Trade unionist Sudhershan Rao Sarde, who cited multiple examples of international support for outlawing asbestos use, called on delegates to support joint union action for an asbestos ban in India. Participants voted to establish a Working Party to devise initiatives in local languages to raise public awareness of the dangers of asbestos and disseminate this and other information to workers and members of the public.
On August 12, news of these developments was reported in the Samaja newspaper, Orissa's most popular newspaper in the Oriya language.
August 17, 2012
1 The BWI, IndustriALL Global Union and Central Trade Unions urgently demand Government of Orissa State to ban Asbestos. August 17, 2012.