19 October 2012

Inter-ministerial panel orders welfare measures for Alang workers

Workers’ welfare dominated a meeting of Inter-Ministerial Committee on Shipbreaking (IMC) in Gandhinagar Thursday, a platform where the Alang-Sosiya Ship-Recycling Yard has increasingly hogged the limelight for close to half a decade.

Sources said IMC chairman E K Bharat Bhushan, who was recently moved from the Civil Aviation Ministry, set a two-month deadline within which all workers at Alang are to be registered by the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), which is also to subsequently set up required health facilities under its schemes.

Bhushan also ordered the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), the nodal agency at the yard, to begin work on the planned workers’ dormitories within three months, taking exception to the fact that workers continue to live in temporarily built shacks with few facilities while sanitation remains a major concern.

Both these have been contentious issues, with the IMC having discussed them for several years now but with a little progress on the ground. For instance, the yard has just two small health facilities operating for tens of thousands of workers. Also, there is no equipment to deal with potentially deadly emergencies, with ambulance services to Bhavnagar, 50 kms away, far below that required.

ESIC had earlier been asked to register workers and provide facilities such as a full-scale hospital, but disagreements with the Ship Recycling Industries Association (SRIA) snowballed into a court case and no work was taken up thereafter.

The IMC also discussed the recent explosion and fire onboard a beached tank-ship that killed 6 workers and severely injured one more 12 days ago. Several agencies raised the issue that inquiry reports were not shared even among themselves, with some contending that a meeting of all agencies operating at Alang-Sosiya should meet at least once a month to share notes.

Another issue discussed, and agreed upon today was how to dispose of radioactive material found in smoke detectors recovered from recycled ships. The GMB had earlier said that disposal should be done by plot owners who, it has been decided, would do so by sending it to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai.

Source: Indian Express. 19 October 2012

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