ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Industrial Negligence

THE death of 11 people in Bombay last week due to industrial negligence and the events which unfolded subsequently are a grim portent. They show in microcosm the decay in the magnificently constructed structure of controls on environmental and industrial pollution. If the defaulting company, Cenury Rayons, can cock a snook at the state authorities today and refuse to close down the plant citing economic and financial considerations, it is only because the state has in the past, notwithstanding the grandiose pronouncements of concern for the disastrously under- monitored industrial scenario, lacked the will to assert its authority. Nor has the judiciary taken the issue of industrial negligence seriously. While much has been made of the lack of operational expertise and weak links among agencies at the local level, the more serious concern is the deliberate ineffectiveness which has been incorporated into the structure of state control The Century Rayon plant which spewed out the toxic chemicals is among the oldest in the area, although now there are a number of chemicals, dyes and synthetic yarn manufacturing units there Many of these industries use a drain which flows into the local river as an outlet for effluents which are supposed to be treated but are often not. What happened last week was hardly a unique occurrence: According to the statement by the Maharashtra minister in the assembly, the leakage of the toxic gas, claimed to have been hydrogen sulphide, occurred because of a malfunctioning switch which failed to trip when the in-house power supply ceased and thus failed to activate the Maharashtra State Electricity Board's supply, giving rise to the overflow from its spin bath. This in turn was in excess of what the effluent treatment plant could handle and so was discharged into the drain in its toxic state. A typical case of an accident occurring in spite of safety measures being taken. However, as in the case of every such typical accident there is a long story of negligence.

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