Seven deaths in 4 months, do safety codes at chemical units here stink?

Express News Service, November 13, 2006
Vadodara, November 13: SIX deaths have taken place within four months in two separate incidents of industrial accidents in Ankleshwar’s GIDC unit, while there has been one fatality at the Panoli industrial unit in the neighbourhood which has a high concentration of chemical industries. While authorities made no breakthrough in the mysterious deaths of three girls on Sunday in a closed chemical unit at the Ankleshwar GIDC, they have sought the services of health officials to ascertain if it could be a case of food poisoning.
A month ago, two women and one man had died in an explosion at a unit after release of chemicals in the main effluent drainage pipeline.
These were casual labourers residing in the GIDC area next to Pragna Chemicals in the Ankleshwar GIDC area. According to Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) officials, some unit had released untreated chemical waste in the effluent drainage which led to a reaction and thereafter an explosion in the nearby tank.
In another such incident around four months ago, a chemical factory worker, Rajendra Bachhansingh, succumbed to severe injuries due to gas leakage at Pesticides India in the Panoli GIDC region. Sources said that such incidences are more frequent at pesticide units than other industries due to a chemical reaction-prone environment.
There are around 1,200 chemicals units in the Bharuch-Ankleshwar region.
In Sunday’s incident where three girls—Kamliben Garvala (18), Kasmi (17), and Anu (7)—died in mysterious circumstances in a closed chemical unit, the Bharuch police have now sought the help of health officials to ascertain if they could have died of food poisoning.
While awaiting the post-mortem and forensic laboratory reports, investigating officer Vijay Soma said, ‘‘We have started recording the statements of everyone in the neighbourhood to know if they experienced any effects of gas emission, but no one seems to confirm it.’’
In addition to GPCB officials, Industrial Safety and Health Department deputy director P J Gamit said, ‘‘We did not find any evidence of gas leakage there. In recent times, we have imposed strict laws for industrial safety in the region.’’
Meanwhile, if the cause of death in Sunday’s incident is not ascertained, the girls’ family will not get the compensation amount they are entitled to under provision of industrial safety laws.
Bharuch district collector Murli Krishna said for the moment they are not considering any compensation, as the cause of death is yet to be established, and also the unit was closed.

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