Criminal negligence and environmental violations led to deaths in Andhra chemical tank, activists allege

The activists have demanded that the industry be closed and compensation be provided to the bereaved families.
Criminal negligence and environmental violations led to deaths in Andhra chemical tank, activists allege
Criminal negligence and environmental violations led to deaths in Andhra chemical tank, activists allege
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The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) expressed shock on Thursday after the death of five daily-wage workers, while cleaning a chemical tank inside the Ananda Aqua Food Processing Unit in Andhra's West Godavari district. 

The five men, Yega Yergondalu, Ram Babu, Nalla Yergondalu, Kotta Srinivas and J Praveen were all aged between 21 and 25.

"We have sent a team to the spot to investigate the matter," B Ratna, Additional SP of the district, had said. 

She also added that three of the workers died on the spot, while two died on the way to hospital. A team of five police officers had been dispatched to the spot to investigate the incident.

Meanwhile, the NAPM in a press release said that it held the Andhra government and Ananda Industries liable for criminal negligence and environmental violations.

In fact, the incident had come just days after an NAPM fact-finding team visited the industry after several complaints from Tunduru village in Bhimavaram mandal in Andhra.

"The fact finding team learnt from the locals that the industry, which was built in 2012, used to release foul smell since its inception. The villagers of Nallammavari Thota also informed the fact-finding team that one-sixth of the people (10 families out of 60 families) left the village in the last one year because of the pungent stench and some of them even sold off their lands. Youngsters, whom this team interacted with, felt that they have no other option except to leave the village if the government didn’t intervene and do something to salvage the situation," the press release stated.

Alleging 'gross negligence', the NAPM stated that the incident was "a direct consequence of non-compliance of prescribed environmental regulations".

"The factory, in a bid to maximize the profits is not recycling the waste and instead dumping it into the Gontheru Canal, which is livelihood for 50,000 fisher people and another 50,000 acres of farm land and fish tanks is likely to be polluted. We also think that the inadequate and weak monitoring by regulators such as the Pollution Control Board and the Labour Inspectors grants impunity to companies to get away with routine violations, which can even get fatal," the NAPM alleged.

The NAPM have now demanded that an immediate judicial inquiry be held, to look into the issue. 

They also demanded that an independent expert committee comprising environmentalists, academicians, activists, legal scholars and bureaucrats should be constituted to assess the pollution levels in all these factories.

"Cancel the license of the Ananda Group of Industries and initiate a criminal prosecution by registering an FIR against the Company MD and the in-charge officer under appropriate provisions of penal law IPC," the press release added.

The NAPM also asked that the Mega Aqua Food Park in Tundurru be scrapped, and section 144 and police presence in nearby villages be withdrawn to enable dialogue between the two parties.

The statement by the NAPM is signed by several activists, including Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Prafulla Samantara, Sunilam, Binayak Sen, and Sandeep Pandey, among others. 

Meanwhile, Opposition leader in the state, YS Jaganmohan Reddy also demanded that the state cancel the licences of aqua units.

"The Mogalthur incident has proved that their apprehensions are real. The location of aqua processing units in thickly populated villages is really a major health hazard. Hence, the government should shift all the aqua processing units to the seashore to protect people from health hazards and save water bodies from pollution," he was quoted as saying.  

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