Accusing the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) of violating the state imposed partial curfew, Human Rights Forum (HRF) - a civil rights’ group - has demanded the Board stop the public hearings amidst the second wave of COVID-19. The group alleged that APPCB was working in bad faith and endangering people by continuing to hold public meetings.
The state has been under a partial curfew (for 18 hours) since May 4, with a lockdown between 12 noon to 6 am. The curfew will be in force until May 31. According to the activists, citing the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change memorandum issued in September last year, APPCB is organizing public hearings by inviting 100 people. “It is extremely immoral of the APPCB to hold public gatherings, citing a memorandum issued after the first wave when there were less number of cases, and use it when a second wave is prevailing.” As per the memorandum, 100 people are allowed to gather for a meeting.
HRF alleged that the Board is organising ‘namesake’ public hearings, exploiting the pandemic crisis. Public hearings are mandatory before launching any industrial project, where the people affected by the project express their opinions. “It is condemnable that the project proponents, the governments and the pollution control board are diluting the rule of public hearing using the pandemic crisis as an excuse. It is not just criminal to conduct public hearings during a pandemic, it also affects the people’s right to live,” HRF said.
APPCB had conducted three public hearings in the state this month – on May 12 in Srikakulam district and two hearings on May 20 in Prakasam district. As per the schedule, APPCB will organize another hearing on May 26 in Prakasam district. Five hearings are scheduled for the month of June. Accusing the APPCB of wilful negligence, at the behest of industries, the HRF activists demanded the board to immediately stop the public hearings.
As per the latest medical bulletin issued on May 21, Andhra Pradesh, the state registered 89 deaths and 20,937 cases. Presently, the state has 2,09,156 active cases, with the death toll at 9,904 till date.