Thursday, October 31, 2013

How far JDU's policies different from Congress & BJP?

Did 17 political parties come together in Delhi on October 30 for communal harmony. alone? There is a speculation that is gaining ground that Nitish Kumar is going to be declared as prime ministerial nominee by CPI and CPM ahead of upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Kumar's speech at JDU's Chintin Shivir at Rajgir wherein he demolished Narendra Modi's claims made at Hunkar rally based on facts has brought him closer to CPI and CPM.   
The war of words between a declared Prime Ministerial candidate and an undeclared Prime Ministerial candidate is given below:
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi: Bihar BJP has demanded a 50,000-crore package and the state must get it
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar: Janata-Dal United's signature campaign forced Centre to set up panel to consider special status for Bihar... BJP launched a vicious campaign against Amartya Sen just because he had praised Bihar model of development
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi: This (hunkar) rally is not just historic, but it will also lay foundation stone for a new future
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar: BJP's hunkar (battle cry) rally reflects their arrogance
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi: I used to sell tea on trains. Even the railway minister doesn't have my experience of what one face on trains. Hum gharibi main paida huye hai. I have seen and experienced poverty
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar: I have not sold tea, but I too come from a modest background
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi: In the alliance of JDU-BJP, the BJP ministers who worked for the welfare of people of Bihar... We wanted to remove jungle raj from Bihar, therefore had tolerated many insults
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar: My ex-friends once praised me and now they are finding faults with me... BJP is responsible for the split.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi: Bihar CM and I were at an occasion where he was most uncomfortable to be seen in my presence. I told him: Don't worry, there are no cameras here
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar: We were not seated at the same table at any lunch hosted by PM Manmohan Singh
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi: I want to tell the descendants of Shri Krishna (Yadavs), I have come from Dwarka to take responsibility of your well being
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar: They talk about Lord Ram and Lord Krishna. BJP should remember Ram, Krishna united country and didn't belong to any caste or party
Modi: Poverty is a very big issue and due to price rise poor have nothing to eat. Children are crying
Nitish: What's their thought for the millions who live below the poverty line? I have a vision and I am working for it
Modi: When we are reminded of the Gupta Dynasty we are reminded of Chandragupta's rajneeti
Nitish: BJP has amazing grasp of history. They should know Chandragupta was of Maurya dynasty, not of Gupta dynasty
Modi: Alexander's army conquered the entire world but was defeated by the Biharis. That's the might of this land.
Nitish: Alexander’s army never crossed Ganga and he wasn’t defeated by Biharis. Neither is Takshashila in Bihar (as Modi had said), it is situated in Pakistan.
Modi:Takshashila is in Bihar 
Nitish:Takshashila is in Pakistan
Modi: People in Bihar are not opportunistic, except a few
Nitish: If the BJP was so hurt, why did the party fight 2010 elections in alliance with the JD-U? Because they could not do without our party. So, tell me, who is opportunistic? It was the BJP that betrayed us and weakened the anti-Congress forces.
Bihar Chief Minister underlined that Gujarat Chief Minister's understanding of country's history, geography and politics is wrong. .Bihar Chief Minister referred to Gujarat Chief Minister as Hitler and compared his politics to the politics of Hitler's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Post Hunkar rally, the task for Gujarat Chief Minister is crystal clear to demonstrate that he is unlike Hitler and his grasp of historical and geographical facts is right.  Both Modi has to illustrate how his policies are different from that of Congress. Nitish is yet to show that he has alternative economic policies different from that of BJP and Congress. The industrial policy that promotes hazardous industries like asbestos that is banned in over 50 countries like Congress and the support for legally questionable biometric identification schemes like e-shakti and aadhaar/UID that has been rejected in Australia, China, UK, France and USA like Congress is a case in point. 

In the matter of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), Bihar Chief Minister did take a sane position but the way land banks are being promoted SEZs will manifest themselves in a different guise. He is yet to unveil his alternative policies for education, water, transportation etc. Unless Nitish Kumar does so his anti-Congressism and anti-BJPism will remain somewhat suspect because right wing economic policies reach the same destination which right wing religious parties do. In the changed economic scenario, a V P Singh is hardly sufficient, perhaps only a Lohia like person can undertake deep rooted changes that the country is in dire need of.    


Central Environment Ministry misled single judge bench of Patna High Court on proposed hazardous asbestos factory

Patna High Court's double judge bench has sought Strict Compliance with Guidelines 
Central Environment Ministry's recommendation is contrary to Division Bench's order which BSPCB has complied with

Respondent to seek high level corruption probe in the matter

October 31, 2013: The case of proposed hazardous and lung cancer causing asbestos based factory of Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL), as per the website of Patna High Court, Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case (CWJC) No.9064/2013, M/s UAL Industries Ltd Vs. State Of Bihar & others has been "DISPOSED 28 Oct 2013". High Court heard the matter on October 28, 2013. Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) and the lawyer representing villagers of Vaishali have disputed the questionable recommendations of the CPCB.
As of October 31, 2013, the text of the order has not been made available either on the Court's website or to all the respondents. 

It is noteworthy that CPCB has claimed to be “an independent agency” in its submission before the High Court but this is factually incorrect because Prof. Subhash Chandra Singh, Chairman, BSPCB is one the member of the 17 member Board of CPCB. This claim is manifestly misleading. It has come to light that I.A. No. 5358/2013 in CWJC) No.9064/2013 filed on August 8, 2013 whereby CPCB sought impleadment in the case and argued for “criminal prosecution against the State Board official for misleading” was never made available to the respondents. Here State Board refers to BSCPCB.        
BSPCB in its supplementary counter affidavit in the CWJC No. 9064/2013 filed on October 25, 2013 on behalf of Chairman, BSPCB and Member Secretary, BSPCB, Patna has categorically submitted that “The report (of CPCB) puts emphasis on the maximum GLC (Ground Level Concentration) of pollutants released from the vent/stack i.e. up to a distance of 200 meters from the vent, but has lost site of the fact that location of an industrial unit gives rise to many industrial/commercial activities, accompanied by the apprehension of accidents, impact of which may not remain confined to 200 meters.” Notably, High Court in its August 19, 2013 order has apprehended “recurrence of Bhopal Gas Tragedy”. But unmindful of the epidemic of asbestos-related diseases & deaths CPCB has recommended setting of asbestos factory in Vaishali.

CPCB has turned a blind eye towards two asbestos factories of Bhojpur despite Patna High Court’s specific reference to violations of environmental norms by them.

BSPCB in its supplementary counter affidavit further submits, “The committee (of CPCB), in his report, has failed to appreciate that the respondent Board (BSCPCB) did not ask for a revised lay out plan from the Petitioner unit, because it wanted only the vent/stack to be shifted from one location to another. In fact, it was concerned with the entire battery limit and its distance from different landmarks “Indeed mere shifting of vent from one location to another location makes a mockery of the requirement for ‘revised layout plan” because admittedly there are multiple locations of emissions in the plant and that makes the whole plant as a polluting unit.     
In a stark act of omission on the part of CPCB, BSPCB in its supplementary counter affidavit contends, “Under the heading of Field-observations, the Report (of CPCB) gives details of distance of different landmarks from the stack/vent of the proposed unit (of Utkal Asbestos Limited) and not from the battery limit. Periphery of the vent has been defined as the battery limit by the committee (of CPCB) and rest of the installations have been ignored for the purpose.”   This is eminently true.  
In a remarkable measure to ensure compliance with its Guidelines, BSPCB in its supplementary counter affidavit submits, “The Environmental Clearance granted to the petitioner unit (proposed factory of Utkal Asbestos Limited) vide letter, dated February 23, 2012 imposes, amongst other conditions, a condition that the project authorities must strictly adhere to the stipulations made by the Bihar Pollution Control Board and the State Government.” The unit, therefore, should have complied with the distance criteria as stipulated under the State Board’s Guidelines for siting of industries i.e. 500 meters (general conditions: (i) at page 62 of the Report) [of CPCB].  

BSPCB in its supplementary counter affidavit concludes, “That, in view of the aforesaid observations by the respondent Board the petitioner’ proposed unit for manufacturing of white chrysotile asbestos sheet may not be permitted at the proposed site till they find for themselves a site conforming to the Board’s Guidelines for siting criteria.”  

Notably, judgement of the Patna High Court's Division Bench has sought Strict Compliance with norms and guidelines dated November 15, 2013. BSPCB has complied with this judgment by cancelling the NOC of the UAL’s proposed plant on April 16, 2013 citing the same besides its Guidelines. Now an order by a single judge bench overturning the cancellation order may create a legal situation wherein BSPCB will be in fix as to which of the two order to comply with. And whether Division Bench order will prevail or single judge bench order will prevail?     

Thus, BSPCB has underlined that the proposed site of UAL’s proposed factory in Vaishali is in non-conformity with the BSPCB’s Guidelines which are admittedly consistent with pre-existing Guidelines of August 1985 and even the proposed Draft Guidelines, 1999.      

But instead of suggesting another site for the proposed asbestos factory, BSPCB should have referred to the Vision Statement on Environment and Health of Union Ministry of Environment & Forests which reads: "Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out." The fact that CPCB has pretended ignorance about it shows that it is extending unwarranted favoritism to the proposed asbestos factory in question to the detriment of public health. The grant of Environmental Clearance to the factory is inconsistent with the Vision Statement of the MoEF. BSPCB should adopt and adhere to the Vision Statement on Environment and Health of Union Ministry of Environment & Forests unlike CPCB.

In a controversial and unprecedented move the recommendation of CPCB is according primacy to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report prepared for the Utkal asbestos company over the legally mandatory Guidelines of Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) despite endorsing the same in its report which is ridden with falsehoods.

If asbestos cannot be safely dealt with in more than 50 other countries, many but not all of which are industrially advanced countries, that have banned it despite all Acts/Rules, it is a fantasy to assume it would be done in Bihar with weak or non-existent environmental and occupational health infrastructure.

CPCB’s report has failed to address the concerns of “secondary exposure” faced by the villagers which may go on continuously every day and night, also underlined in paragraph 14 of judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. It is clear that the Hon’ble Court considers paragraph 15 and 16 of the judgement of January 21, 2011 by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Writ Petition (Civil) no. 260/2004 to be the relevant portion. The order of Hon’ble Patna High Court dated November 15, 2011 annexed at page 24 in the petitioner’s application referred to paragraph 15 of Hon’ble Supreme Court in its judgment dated January 21, 2011. Hon’ble High Court in its order at paragraph 12 categorically states, “Asbestos producing industry is considered to be hazardous industry as indicated in paragraph 15 of the judgement of the Supreme Court”. It is immensely important to read paragraph 14 of the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order which reads as under:
                       “14. In the matter relating to secondary exposure of workers to asbestos, though the grounds have been taken in the Writ Petition without any factual basis, again in the Rejoinder filed to the counter affidavit of respondent No.37, this issue has been raised by the petitioner in detail. In the earlier judgment of this Court in the case of Consumer Education and Research Centre (supra), hazards arising out of primary use of asbestos were primarily dealt with, but certainly secondary exposure also needs to be examined by the Court. In that judgment, the Court had noticed that it would, thus, be clear that diseases occurred wherever the exposure to the toxic or carcinogenic agent occurs, regardless of the country, type of industry, job title, job assignment or location of exposure. The diseases will follow the trail of the exposure and extend the chain of the carcinogenic risk beyond the work place. In that judgment, the Court had also directed that a review by the Union and the States shall be made after every ten years and also as and when the ILO gives directions in this behalf consistent with its recommendations or conventions. Admittedly, 15 years has expired since the issuance of the directions by this Court. The ILO also made certain specific directions vide its resolution of 2006 adopted in the 95th session of the International Labour Conference. It introduced a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos. As already noticed, serious doubts have been raised as to whether `controlled use' can be effectively implemented even with regard to secondary exposure. These are circumstances which fully require the concerned quarters/authorities in the Government of India as well as the State Governments to examine/review the matter in accordance with law, objectively, to achieve the greater health care of the poor strata of the country who are directly or indirectly engaged in mining or manufacturing activities of asbestos and/or allied products.”

It is noteworthy that both the Chief Justice bench Hon’ble Supreme Court and Chief Justice bench of Hon’ble Patna High Court have taken note of the resolution of WHO and ILO which seek elimination of all forms of asbestos. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in its judgment dated January 21, 2011 in Writ Petition (Civil) No.260 of 2004 referred to its directions of January 27, 1995 in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 that are required to be strictly adhered to including fresh International Labour Organisation (ILO) resolution on Asbestos of 2006.

It may be noted that at Chapter 4, page no.4-14, the EIA report prepared by Shiva Test House, Patna for UAL Industries Limited, it is admitted that “The favorable wind and the proposed height of stack will disperse these pollutants in different directions fast to longer distance…” Given the fact that the study is admittedly limited to “project Premises”, the impact for habitation beyond the “project premises” and at “longer distance” has not been undertaken.

While a wind which disperses asbestos fibers to longer distances cannot be deemed “favourable wind”. This admission is a sufficient proof that the proposed asbestos factory is not safe even forhabitations at longer distances. The inference that at longer distance in different directions the concentration of asbestos fibers, the pollutants will be “negligible” is highly questionable and is without any basis.  It is quite inexplicable as to how this unreliable and speculative prediction of a short term GLC by a private consultant is being cited by the Committee of CPCB to mislead the Hon’ble Court that the pre-existing Guidelines should be ignored in favour this questionable EIA report. 

There is documentary evidence to show how MoEF and CPCB is fiddling with pre-existing rules, regulations, norms and guidelines to favour asbestos industry at any human cost. It is evident from the documents on record that the EIA report prepared for the UAL Industries by the Shiva Test House, Patna, a private consultant for submitting the application before BSPCB, EAC, MoEF. How can that become the criteria for determining the maximum ground level concentration (MGLC). It is admitted in the documents on the record that EAC, MoEF recommended 500 meter distance criteria for the proposed asbestos based factory.

Unlike MoEF and BSPCB, in compliance of the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s judgement of January 21, 2011, on January 23, 2012, Union Ministry of Labour has set up a Advisory Committee to implement Hon’ble Supreme Court order issued 15 years ago on January 27, 1995 since ILO has also made certain specific directions vide its Resolution of 2006 introducing a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos.  Hon’ble Supreme Court directed, “In terms of the above judgment of this Court as well as reasons stated in this judgment, we hereby direct the Union of India and the States to review safeguards in relation to primary as well as secondary exposure to asbestos keeping in mind the information supplied by the respective States in furtherance to the earlier judgment as well as the fresh resolution passed by the ILO. Upon such review, further directions, consistent with law, shall be issued within a period of six months from the date of passing of this order.”

It is evident from the direction that Central and State Governments were supposed to review and revise their laws in the light of “fresh resolution passed by ILO” introducing a ban on all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos within six months from January 21, 2011 but despite the passage of more than more than 3 years and eight months, they have not complied with the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

In its written order, the High Court may consider directing BSPCB and MoEF to set up a Committee to incorporate Supreme Court’s order on ILO Resolution on asbestos the way Union Ministry of Labour has done.

It is reliably learnt that those respondents in the case whose submissions and arguments have not been heard are likely to seek high level corruption probe in the matter.  
For Details: Abhimanyu Sharma, lawyer for Vaishali villagers, Mb: 9631290074
Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 09818089660 (Delhi), 08227816731 (Patna), E-mail:”,

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Khabardar rally in Patna emerges as the voice of poor, seeks unity of left parties

Addressing the Khabardar rally in Patna in front of the party headquarters of Bhartiya Janta Party, Janata Dal United and Accountant General's Office on Beer Chand Patel Marg, Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary CPI-ML Liberation appealed for the unity of left parties to defeat communal and corporate forces that are plundering nation's natural resources from land, spectrum to coal. It was a massive rally of the poor and the marginalized people of Bihar, unlike Hunkar rally which was big but comprised largely of the middle class.
CPIML leaders accused JDU of having nourished BJP for 17 years in Bihar.  Bhattacharya underlined that 2014 election is not a Prime Ministerial election, it is going to be a election to elect the legislators. These legislators will choose the Prime Minister. In any case it is not about Prime Ministerial candidate, it is going to be an election about policies which affect the poor.