Presentation on theme: "Challenges in Community Worker Organising Nityanand Jayaraman Independent Journalist/Researcher Member, Collective for Environment, Social and Economic."— Presentation transcript:
Challenges in Community Worker Organising Nityanand Jayaraman Independent Journalist/Researcher Member, Collective for Environment, Social and Economic Justice
What is “Development” Ecological Economy (Farming/Fishing) to Manufacturing Economy (Factory Workers) to Service Economy (IT, Hotel, Service Industry)
Enter – Industrial Economy Chemplast Sanmar and MALCO Mercury cell chloralkali plant Chloromethanes plant EDC, VCM and PVC Fumed Silica Chlorofluorocarbons Bauxite to Aluminum
Untreated Effluents Effluents discharged through people’s fields into major river
People’s Monitoring Indian People’s Tribunal report: July 2005 Air sampling above effluent outfall found a) Ethylene Dichloride, Carbon Tetrachloride, VCM, methylene chloride b) Some upto 32,000 times above safe levels c) If ambient levels high, what about occupational levels
Toxic waste 11 unlined wells containing mercury wastes High levels of mercury in environment Workers routinely handle mercury and mercury wastes
Other Toxic wastes MALCO, subsidiary of UK MNC Vedanta, dumps Red Mud Silica and heavy metal content
Worked in: Mercury cellhouse From 1965 to 1988 Handled mercury, caustic lye Inhaled chlorine Early Complaints: Nose burning, lacrimation, stomach bloating, loss of appetite No compensation till date No proper treatment Name: Sadaiyan Gounder Age: 62 years
My work involved collecting mercury and caustic lye and filling these steel containers with mercury. When it is full, you can’t even move the container. Mercury is that heavy. There was a lot of lye around. Even if a drop falls on your skin, it will make a hole. We were given plastic cups to scoop the mercury. We were given gloves, but we never wore it because it was a hindrance. The atmosphere inside the cellhouse was oppressive – a lot of fumes. Between mercury and lye, it is difficult for new people to not get affected by it. The chlorine was such that if it struck you, you can’t talk for a while. Your nose and throat would just go dry and you can’t do anything. After a while, you can eat the onions and buttermilk they give you, and slowly you’ll start returning to normal.
Around 1975, I started noticing problems. My skin became dry. It looked like the skin a snake sheds, with white patches all over and scales. Gradually, other complications began. My face and entire body began swelling. For the longest time, I was being seen by a skin doctor referred to by the company. In 2003, the skin doctor finally referred me to Dr. Balamurugan, a neurologist at Gokulam Hospital in Salem. When I first fell ill, I couldn’t return to work for 10 months because the Government Hospital doctor would not give me a fitness certificate. He said I was too sick to work, and that my health was not good because of lye. In 1976, the general manager who was a good man took me back with an assurance that he would change my section. But I was appointed to the same section and taken back. Slowly, my condition got worse. I couldn’t work any more, because the skin problem was persistent. My hands would shiver; I had absolutely no appetite. I couldn’t even walk.
Effects of mercury Neuro toxin Skin depigmentation Dental problems Tumours Suspected to increase risk of heart disease Impact on pregnancy outcomes Impacts on children exposed as fetuses
Challenges Labour v. Community Conflict Unreported Incidents: Workers’ Fear over Loss of Jobs; Contract workers Corruption in Trade Unions Unfriendly worker laws: ESI and paperwork Dearth of public interest professionals Establishing Cause-Effect linkages Interim relief and medical care Out of court settlement: Inability to fight long- drawn battles
Opportunities Community Activism for Labour, and vice- versa Reporting and Monitoring Mechanisms Community Health Monitoring: Development of cohorts among ex- workers Public Advocacy: Tribunals, Fact-finding teams, global solidarity, scientific and medical support