Pollution Control Board Asks Surat Firm To Shut Down After 5 Labourers Charred To Death

| Updated: September 23, 2022 4:01 pm

Two weeks after five labourers died in a fire at Surat’s Anupam Rasayan India Limited, a leading life science company, the state Pollution Control Board has issued closure notice to the company and also imposed Rs 1-crore penalty on the firm towards interim environmental damage compensation (EDC). The action comes in the wake of the National Green Tribunal taking a suo motu notice of the matter based on the media reports.

The fire broke out on the company premises in Surat’s Sachin locality on September 10. Initially, the rescue workers discovered one body – of a worker named Ankur Patel – and realised more were missing. Around 20 labourers were hospitalised.

During the cooling operations the next day, fire officials had found three more bodies — of labourers Rakesh Chaudhary, Prabhat Jha, and Sanjay Sinhora (28), all residents of Pandesara, an industrial area in Surat. One more labourer, Jayraj Singh Thakor, also from Pandesara, died in hospital on September 16. Prima facie probe said the fire broke following a blast in one of the units. The company’s manager, Thomas Braganza said that Rs 50 lakh as compensation was given to the kin of the each deceased labourer.

The police registered a case of accidental death and said the structure was ‘too risky’ for forensic experts to take samples for carrying out further investigations. Inspector DV Baldaniya from Sachin GIDC Police Station said, “We have taken statements of some of the injured workers and also from those were unhurt. We have cordoned off the premises as the structure has become risky. Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) officials are yet to collect samples from the site.” He added further that the officials were working on a structural stability report for the site.

On September 21, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board had submitted its report based on the suo motu proceedings taken by the NGT principal bench. The report stated that the GPCB had ‘issued closure direction’ to the unit under provisions of the AIR (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981, with ‘immediate effect’ and imposed a penalty of Rs 1 crore as interim environmental damage compensation (EDC).

The GPCB’s Surat unit head, MR Macwana, on September 16, stated: “Three days’ notice period was provided to the unit at the time of inspection on September 11 and that the unit failed to submit the compliance, compelling GPCB to issue the closure notice.” The closure notice also cited that the unit had to comply with the Director Industrial Safety and Health (DISH) direction and a final report was needed to be submitted. Failure to comply with the directions would result in prosecution under AIR (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.

The GPCB report stated that production of chemical 2, 4-difluoronitrobenzene and the extractive distillation of solvent sulfolane were going through the process of chemical reactions in the plant, when the blast occurred ‘due to unknown reasons’.

Anupam Rasayan, which is involved in the manufacturing of specialty chemicals catering to sectors such as agrochemicals, personal care and pharmaceuticals, with six manufacturing sites in Gujarat — four in Sachin GIDC and two in GIDC Jhagadia, Bharuch — has Indian-American cardiologist Dr Kiran C Patel as chairman in its board of directors.

Anupam Rasayan is one of the two corporate entities that had paid for Remdesivir injections that were distributed at the Surat’s BJP office by the party’s state chief CR Patil during the peak of Covid-19 pandemic.

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