The first network meeting of Indian Ban Asbestos Network (iBAN) was conducted in New Delhi at the Secretariat’s office. The objective of the meeting was two-fold; first, to present and review on the work done by the network in last one year. Second, to make an action plan for the coming year and in long term. The list of participants, agenda and pictures are provided in the annex.
The meeting started on 19 January 2019 with a welcome note by Pooja Gupta outlining a brief discussion on the agenda, which was followed by a presentation on the engagements and work done by the network during the year. Following the presentation, members provided the following suggestions:
- To add “key goal is to BAN asbestos” in the objective
- Investigate reasons for a dip in Asbestos imports in 2013-14 and analyze the market trend on use of
- Rana Sengupta informed that he had several contacts near the Asbestos Cement plant at Jasidih which can be explored for further work like Medical camps and gathering of investigation for legal A visit will be organized so that the camp and well-being of the workers can be discussed with the local groups.
- District TB list has to be referred for further work in
- Victim’s testimonials can be updated regularly with the available data to create an inventory.
Post presentation and discussion, Kamal Tewari requested to make changes/ reschedule the agenda, as many topics of the agenda were interlinked and a clarification was needed.
The proposed Asbestos victim’s meeting at Bhopal by OEHNI was discussed before the review of partner’s work. The role and functioning of iBAN and OEHNI were primary issues. It was stressed that organizational aspects of both the networks have to be taken care of and there should be no repetition of work. It was suggested that in order to motivate the victims/workers, the Asbestos victim’s meeting should be organized in Delhi or some other place, where the work is going.
It was also discussed that the workers/victim’s moment should not be a trickle down approach, instead it should come voluntarily from the victims themselves and it should be the workers/victims taking the decisions themselves. After discussion, it was decided that the meeting with asbestos victims will be held in Bhopal on 19 and 20 February by OEHNI.
It was also decided that all Asbestos related work in the country should be the responsibility of IBAN and other OSH related work will be taken care of by OEHNI. Both secretariats will forward any such work/information to each other respectively to avoid any duplication of work
Session 2 started with the update from members. Major points emerging from the discussions are summed up as follows:
- An endorsement appeal was prepared for the parties in Rajasthan regarding mines and others worker’s welfare board. This appeal includes disability (silicosis and ARD) as an important agenda.
- Radio endorsements and media campaign is going on for the same.
- A helpline number is formed for information on the welfare board for general public.
- Doctors are being trained in 4 districts across Rajasthan on Pneumoconiosis.
- E-mitra (a government SOS initiative) is a Single Window access to all Government Services in Rajasthan was also discussed
- A meeting was planned with Barry Kistnasamy to orient the government representatives of the work done in South Africa, on the compensation and rehabilitation system for mine workers suffering from Pneumoconiosis.
- Engagement with Gram Panchayats are equally important and it was intended to be done before 2019 general elections for resolutions on Asbestos and closure of mines.
- It was emphasized that the grass-root moment should be the prime focus of any network and the area of activity should be specified accordingly.
- He shared his experience with the medical camp organized last year and how the management used that against two employees and suspended them.
- He shared that he is targeting 9 factories across the country where he plans to bring the trade unions together and form one group/network.
- He mentioned that 6 gate meetings were held so far in Kolkata where the Member of Parliament favour the company and are affecting the Rotterdam resolutions.
- It was also shared during the meeting that places like Durgapur and Burdwan does not have any trade unions and hence the workers needs to be mobilized strategically.
- He is in process of formation of victim’s network, along with filing a petition on the implementation of Kolkata High Court’s judgement.
- A meeting and screening of breathlessness is being planned by end of the February and invited everyone.
- He suggested that the scale of recognition of the asbestos issues needs to be bought up, both among the workers and general public.
- We need to target places like Rajasthan to ban asbestos as the burden of disease in long run will be huge and the taxes and pensions will make it more encumbrance.
- If policy changes and worker’s welfare board are in place it will be convenient for the government to ban the production of any asbestos product. Then such model can be campaigned in other states also.
- Rehabilitation and preventions are the areas where work needs to be done.
- It was also mentioned that the network needs to expand and at least one representative should be present from each area where the asbestos factories are located across the country.
- He shared the experience of medical camp organized in Mumbai in December 2018 and again in January 2019 where about 160 positive cases of ARD were identified out of which more than 50 % were secondary victims.
- He raised an important issue of episodes of family disputes due to screening among the suspected victims. He said that counselling standards needs to be developed, for both, the victim and their families so that they understand the current and future circumstances due to the
- He mentioned that last week about 30-35 people were trained from different villages near Jhadol area (Rajasthan) who now know how to fill up claim forms on e-mitra.
- He also mentioned that he will work with the Gram Panchayats on scientific reclamation as per the NGT
- He mentioned that so far he has helped in medical examination of more than 700 mine workers in and around the mine areas in Rajasthan.
- He shared the information that there are 17 villages where asbestos mines are There are areas where agents take money from the victims to get them diagnosed, even to fill their forms on government portals like e-mitra.
- Looking at the gravity of the issue, the network members suggested, that it can be proposed to the government that the board’s doctor can be changed every three months , or the state meeting can be organized by the health department, involving NGOs in the deliberations. Also collectors and CMHOs should involve local organizations with good track records.
- He has helped in diagnosis of 22 ARD victims from 3 Thermal power plants and one asbestos-cement plant.
- Since these workers received compensation after filing cases in High Courts more workers are coming forward for the diagnosis.
- It was mentioned that the Gujrat High Court Committee’s report includes his findings on occupational health and diseases.
- He also gathered information through RTI that the doctor looking at OSH victim identification is from Child labour department with no specialization on OSH.
- He shared his experiences with the grass roots communities in the state of Jharkhand around the asbestos dump He mentioned that the district magistrate of the area is unaware of the green tribunal orders and needs to be updated.
- Also the action plan that the NGT ordered for, should be discussed during Gram Sabha, a meeting held along with the village representatives and villagers.
- He mentioned that the technical report needs to be made by those aware of the policies and ground reality, as he himself can help in mobilizing the communities.
- He suggested that iBAN should conduct a meeting in Roro to aware different stakeholders on the issues of asbestos and human health while discussing the action plan for the abandoned mine reclamation.
- He said that he has not been looking at asbestos work lately but helping Pevekar with his work.
- He shared about his engagement with the work going on in Rajasthan and how lack of communication weakened the action plan he made.
- He shared how Alang (Gujrat) still produces the asbestos boards which are used as chulhas – a cooking device used by the locals.
- He shared his experiences with different parties on submission of the worker’s heath He said that they were able to add worker’s health in one of the major political party’s manifesto for the elections.
- Off late Trade Unions are also actively becoming aware of health issues caused during work and have started talking openly with management while generating awareness among the workers.
- Their network (JSA) has reach in almost 15 states and iBAN can reach in these places with his organization’s help. He said to prepare and circulate a concept note, which they can push in their state conventions.
- Via JSA, doctors can also be approached on personal request (state specific).
- He shared his experience with the existing workers in the factories like break-shoe factories, asbestos cement units, where the workers are scared to be diagnosed positive as they will lose their jobs.
- He also discussed the opportunity iBAN have in ICOEH meeting and how engagement with various doctors and medical representatives can strengthen the network.
In Session 3, Rotterdam was the first item on the agenda. It was agreed that work must be done so that India agree to include asbestos in PIC list. Steps to be undertaken were outlined as follows –
- Patel to draft the letter to the ministries.
- Pooja will file RTIs to gather information on the submissions done by the concerned departments in the name of Rotterdam.
- Post Card and poster campaigns needs to be undertaken for media campaign and gathering mass awareness. A press release on the same day from multiple locations across the country will be released.
- Nidhi and Sengupta will help with the press release via their network/organization.
- The manifestos of the parties can be targeted before general elections which coincidently is around the same time as Rotterdam convention. Identifying the major key points at various parties to be done.
- Several articles shall be written in the next few months. The themes that were decided upon were:
|S. N.||Theme||Responsibility||Time Line|
|1.||Ethical||Jagdish Patel / Kamal Tewari/ Raghunath Manwar||28 February|
|2.||Legal||Sreedhar Ramamurthi||28 April|
|3.||Data Oriented||Sreedhar Ramamurthi / Pooja Gupta||25 April|
|4.||Victim’s Story||Pooja Gupta/Rajendra Pevekar||30 March|
|5.||Worker’s Rights||Kamal Tewari||01 May|
If anyone else want to contribute, please feel free.
It was also decided that at present iBAN will not be sending any representative to the Rotterdam convention. Based on the outcome of the work done, a decision will be taken towards end of March 2019.
On ICOEH, it was decided that a stall can be set up if the finances are arranged. If it is decided to put up a stall the following needs to be done:Display Material, Data Collection of the interested people, Promote #isupportbanasbestos,Signed petition to the GoI,Circulate flyers at the entrance to generate awareness
The NGT case and order was discussed mostly during Punit’s discussion and it was decided that iBAN will get involved with action plan making by the committee.
The day ended with screening of the documentary “Breathless” followed by dinner.
On day 2, session 1 started with discussions on breathless and how the network can be engaged. Kamal Tewari updated that he is in conversation with few media houses for the dubbing of the documentary and will update by the end of this month.
iBAN members can also help in screening of the documentary across the nation with different educational institutions and policy makers or other stakeholders.
This session extended with the making an action plan for the network.
Post lunch the meeting concluded with a thank you note.
Author – Pooja Gupta