Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Another disaster in Andhra raises fresh questions on industrial safety

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Vijayawada | Friday, 2022 2:15:08 AM IST
The fire accident at a chemical plant in Eluru district that killed six people and injured 12 others late on Wednesday night has raised fresh questions over industrial safety in Andhra Pradesh

The huge fire in the pharmaceutical intermediate manufacturing unit of Porus Laboratories at Akkireddygudem was apparently caused by leakage of some chemical solvents.

Some of the survivors alleged that adequate safety precautions were not taken resulting in the disaster. According to them, the officials concerned acted with negligence and did not follow the set procedure.

After the accident, local people also staged a protest, demanding shifting of the chemical plant. They alleged that the plant is causing pollution in the surrounding villages.

Authorities have ordered a probe into the fire and announced that the industry will remain shut till completion of the probe. District Collector Prasanna Venkatesh promised that action will be taken if the company was found negligent.

However, trade union leaders and observers say that the authorities have not learnt a lesson from a series of industrial accidents in the state during the last two years. A trade union leader said like in the past nothing would come out from this probe.

Violation of safety norms was identified as the cause in most of the industrial accidents in the past but no follow-up action was taken.

Trade unions have been demanding effective implementation of laws concerning safety and health of workers.

Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Andhra Pradesh unit though negligence on part of companies was found the cause of accidents, corrective measures were not taken.

The state has seen a series of industrial disasters in recent years. The port city of Visakhapatnam, the main industrial hub of Andhra Pradesh, accounted for most of the disasters.

In February this year, one person was killed and four workers were injured in a blast in the Hetero Drugs plant near Nakkapalli in Visakhapatnam district.

After this accident, activist and former IAS officer E.A.S. Sarma recently slammed the authorities for allowing the unit to continue. He wrote to Chief Secretary Sameer Sharma that both om the point of view of safety, as well as pollution, the Hetero Drugs unit near Nakkapalli presents a standing example of how the state government has shamefully allowed it to endanger the workers' lives and imperil the health of the people.

He recalled that in the past, there were two major accidents at the unit, one in 2012-13 and another in 2016, in which 5 workers had lost their lives. In the latest accident that took place on the night of February 23, one person had lost his life and another four grievously injured.

"Everytime there is an accident, the State Industrial Directorates dealing with factory and boiler safety, come up with their post-mortem accident investigation reports to mislead the people and forget about them within days, till the next accident takes place. The police too register FIRs but no one knows how and why the cases are closed, once public memory fades. The district administration too washes its hands off the accidents, as they lack any vision on tightening industrial safety in the district. Taking into account the series of accidents that took place at Hetero Drugs, Pharma city and other areas in the district, their total number has exceeded 40 and the lives lost has exceeded 40 to 50," he said.

In May last year, a major fire broke out at one of the crude processing units of the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) in Visakhapatnam. Luckily, there were no casualties.

The same month, a massive fire broke out at the Venkat Narayan Active Ingredients Pvt Ltd (VNAI)'s bulk drug chemical unit in Nellore. Four factory workers died in the accident.

In March last year, two workers were killed and four others sustained severe injuries when two boilers exploded in a chemical factory in East Godavari district.

The incident happened in Tyche Chemical Industries located on the suburbs of Kakinada.

On May 7, 2020, twelve persons died and over 580 were hospitalized due to styrene gas leak from LG Polymers in Visakhapatnam. One the worst industrial accidents in the city had raised many questions on the safety of people living around the industrial units.

A month later, two persons died and four injured due to leak of hydrogen sulphide at Sainor Life Science at Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City (JNPC) and on July 14, one employee had died and one was injured in Visakha Solvents in JNPC due.

According to trade union leaders, 56 industrial accidents took place at JNPC at Parawada during last 10 years, claiming 37 lives.

On June 28, 2020, ammonia gas leak at SPY Agro Industries in Nandyal in Kurnool district killed one person while three others were injured.

Eleven workers were killed when a crane collapsed at Hindustan Shipyard Limited in August. This was the fourth industrial accident to hit Vizag in four months.

--IANS ms/vd

( 835 Words)

2022-04-14-20:15:35 (IANS)

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