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Editorial : Threats to RTI Applicant
– PIL Appeal To Honorable Supreme court of India For Writ of Mandamus
Just weeks back , we have witnessed the collapse of a multi storied building in bellary ,Karnataka ,in this week we have witnessed a fire tragedy in a multi-story building in Bangalore, months ago there was collapse of a huge building under construction in Bangalore , all resulting in loss of human lives. All these are the result of violations of Urban Town Planning Laws , Building bye-laws which are observed more in breach by the criminals & conniving public servants . The authorities are behaving like real estate agents of criminals , by-passing norms , framing laws to the tune of criminals . Authorities are not honoring RTI requests & even high ranking IAS officer repeatedly threatens a commoner seeking information under RTI ACT .
Information input forms part of process of one’s expression. One’s expression in any forms – written , oral , etc becomes information input to the opposite person , in turn he expresses his reply. Information & Expression are inseparable parts & form lifeline of a democracy. That is the reason , Right to Expression is the basic fundamental right as well as human right of every Indian citizen. When a person’s right to expression is violated , his other rights to equality , justice , etc also are violated. Suppression of Information amounts to curbing of Expression.
In a democracy , people have a right to know how the public servants are functioning. However till date public servants are hiding behind the veil of Officials Secrets Act (which is of british vintage created by british to suppress native indians). By this cover-up public servants are hiding their own corruption , crimes , mismanagement , failures , etc. even RTI Act is not being followed intoto by public servants. However the recent delhi high court ruling affirming that CJI is under RTI purview & bound to answer RTI request , is noteworthy.
Our previous RTI request to CJI , union home secretary of GOI, President of India , DG & IGP of GOK and others were not honored. The information I sought were answers to the following questions mentioned in the below mentioned websites . the questions concerned the past , present continuing injustices meted out to millions of Indian citizens , due to wrong / illegal work practices of Indian judges , police & public servants . The information we sought would expose the traitors , anti-nationals , criminals in public service. The information we are seeking are no defense secrets , no national secrets. The truthful information exposes the anti-nationals , traitors in the public service & strengthens our national security , national unity & integrity.
Hereby , I do request the honorable supreme court of India to consider this as a PIL for : “writ of Mandamus” and to issue instructions to the concerned public servants in the following cases to perform their duties & to answer the questions. JAI HIND. VANDE MATARAM.
Your’s sincerely ,
Failure of duties & questions not answered by public servants
Circle Inspector of Police , Vijayanagar Police Station , Mysore City , Karnataka
CROSS EXAM OF HONOURABLE CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA , SUPREME COURT OF INDIA –
http://crosscji.blogspot.com/ , http://crossexamofchiefjustice.blogspot.com/
http://crimesofsupremecourt.wordpress.com/ , http://crosscji.wordpress.com/
CROSS EXAM OF UNION HOME SECRETARY , GOI , NEW DELHI –
http://crosscji.blogspot.com/ , http://crossexamofchiefjustice.blogspot.com/
http://crimesofsupremecourt.wordpress.com/ , http://crosscji.wordpress.com/
CROSS EXAM OF DG&IG OF POLICE , GOK , BANGALORE –
http://crosscji.blogspot.com/ , http://crossexamofchiefjustice.blogspot.com/
http://crimesofsupremecourt.wordpress.com/ , http://crosscji.wordpress.com/
CROSS EXAM OF MUDA COMMISSIONER , MUDA , MYSORE , COMMISSIONER , MCC , MYSORE , DEPUTY COMMISSIONER , MYSORE –
http://crimesofmuda.blogspot.com/ , http://manivannanmuda.blogspot.com/
CROSS EXAM OF BDA COMMISSIONER , BDA , BANGALORE , COMMISSIONER , BBMP , BANGALORE , DEPUTY COMMISSIONER , BANGALORE , CHAIRMAN , KIADB , BANGALORE –
http://crimesofbda.blogspot.com/ , http://bdacrimes.wordpress.com/ ,
CROSS EXAM OF GOVERNOR , RESERVE BANK OF INDIA
http://theftinrbi.blogspot.com/ , http://theftinrbi.rediffblogs.com/
NICE Corridor Questions to CHIEF MINISTER .Mr.Yediyurappa
Read full questionnaire
Human Rights Violations In Jammu & Kashmir
By Independent People’s Tribunal 21 February, 2010 Countercurrents.org
Since yesterday, we have been hearing about large scale violations of human
rights of the people of this state. We had testimonies from about 37 victims and
their kin. We have also had testimonies/statements from journalists and members
of civil society.
We went through the testimonies and evidence presented before us and are
presenting our preliminary observations in this interim report.
One thing is clear to us that there is a sense of suffering and injustice writ
large on the face of everyone who made their statements before us. We had made
it clear that we are not in any way linked with the official institutions or
authority, and yet so many of them gave vent to their feelings in their physical
and emotional state, which only strengthens our opinion that there is
substantial truth in those allegations.
Their testimonies are spread over a canvas of various violations of human rights
for a period of two decades, and it is clear that by way of reliefs and
remedies, what government has done amounts to a meagre little. It is here the
state has to answer in large measure for all indifferent attitudes, deficiencies
It cannot be gainsaid that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (1958), has
been in the force for nearly two decades in this state. This Act has been
misused and in being misused wherever it is made applicable (Manipur, for
example). Therefore, if we take this situation into account, this draconian law
has undoubtedly facilitated grave human rights abuses including “disappearances”
by the very nature of the power bestowed on the armed forces.
Any abuse of powers by the armed forces is criminal offence. It should promptly
be investigated by an agency independent of the armed forces, followed by
impartial prosecution. The testimonies of all witnesses clearly establish that
there has been no satisfactory investigation by any agency or authority in the
State, leave alone any prosecution. On the other hand, we get an impression that
all institutions of the State, the executive, the legislature, the human rights
commission, and to a certain extent even the judiciary have failed to do justice
to the victims of “disappearances” and other human rights violations.
The UN General Assembly in 2006 has unanimously adopted the International
Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
Earlier, there was the UN Declaration to the above effect (December 1992).
Article 2 of the Declaration says that, “the prohibition” of “disappearances” is
absolute and no State can find an excuse. Article 7 says, “no circumstances,
whether a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public
emergency may be invoked to justify” these acts of violation. Hence, it is not
open to the State to resort to enforced disappearances which would include all
custodial deaths on the ground of any threat to internal security or external
safety and stability. It is here the State’s liability becomes absolute, and we
should have no hesitation in making these observations.
We have the testimony of Ms. Parveena Ahangar, who is the Chairperson of the
Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), which clearly establishes
that 8-10,000 persons have disappeared from about 1989. Incidentally, we may
point out that during the period 1984-1994 during the agitation for Khalistan in
Punjab, there had been similar disappearances, and recently a report based on
the State’s Human Rights Commission, shows that over 2059 bodies were identified
in Amritsar district and still over 1000 bodies are lying there in the district,
and there are a large number of skeletons in other districts. Moreover,
internationally, disappearances and “custodial deaths” fall within the
definition of “torture”. Prohibition of torture and ill treatment is underlined
by its non-derogable status in human rights laws. No State can justify such an
1) Various instances of the security forces’ crimes have been brought to our
notice. These are violations against the Geneva Conventions (Common Articles
2/3), the Indian Penal Code and the civil law of the country. The
police/paramilitary and surrendered militants have flouted Indian laws and the
rules of war. As a consequence, large numbers of civilians have died, including
women and children. Women, including young girls, have been harassed, raped, and
gang raped, and children in their early teens shot.
2) The judicial machinery has barely functioned. Despite the stern report of the
Bijbihara Magisterial Enquiry, recommending the severest action against the BSF
officers and Jawans. But nothing was done. A number of cases filed in the
District and High Courts have been pending for years, and there are numerous
cases of lack of judicial action taken in terms of awarding compensation and
instructing the security forces to produce the disappeared and so forth.
The tribunal heard repeated examples of FIRs filed by the families that were
distorted by the police to accuse the victims. Counter FIRs have also been
lodged by the police, the latest incident being as recent as yesterday. Under
the pretext of translating FIRs in Urdu into English, the police has completely
distorted the complaints made in the original FIR. One such case with evidence
was produced before the Independent Tribunal.
The State Human Rights Commission has no power to investigate paramilitary and
military excesses, though it does have the power to request investigation
reports of the enquiry by the paramilitary and the military forces. The SHRC
seems to have failed to exercise its powers proactively to provide justice to
the victims. The general trend is that the State as well as the central
government ignores the recommendations made by this Commission.
The worst case of mass rape was heard by the women jurists from the testimonies
by women from Kunan posh pora, who talked about the night of February 22, 1991,
when the Army came to their village, isolated the men, and gang raped at least
23 women of all ages from 14 to even a 100 year old woman. The rape took place
in front of their young children. There was brutal impact on their bodies and
since then, they have suffered physical and mental trauma for years. They have
been socially discriminated and ostracized, landing them into a traumatic state
of mind that has been permanent. This is the grossest of human rights
4) Throughout the conflict, people have been maimed and disabled due to the
indiscriminate firing of security forces during even non-violent protests.
People have also been disabled during interrogations where torture was used. We
heard the testimonies from Bijbehara, where forces had indiscriminately opened
fire on peaceful demonstrators in 1993. Many injured persons have been disabled
for life and have suffered mentally, physically, and financially. Hardly any
steps have been taken for their rehabilitation.
The testimonies we heard of disabled persons revealed that they were totally
shocked and shattered. The disabled deposed before us to say that they could
bear with the aftermath of physical injury, but not with the mental pain, agony,
and trauma that make them feel that they die several deaths everyday, rather
than living even once.
1) The controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act should be withdrawn from
J&K. Even the Public Safety Act and other anti-terror laws should correspond to
the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which
India has ratified.
It should be noted that India has been repeatedly criticized in the UN Human
Rights Committee for the existence of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which
violates crucially several articles of the ICCPR.
2) Keeping in view the large concentration of military and paramilitary forces
in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, which is disproportionate to the civilian
population and is also making civil administration ineffective in many matters.
The Government of India should take immediate steps to minimize the number of
these forces in order to bring relief to the civilian population.
3) We recommend the establishment of a special judicial authority making an
independent and thorough inquiry into all allegations of human rights
violations, including disappearances, custodial killings, rape, torture,
including torture of prisoners, fake encounters, and all other cases related to
excesses by security forces.
4) Every case of killing by police and security forces in situations like
protests, demonstrations, riots, etc. should be followed by a judicial inquiry
into the police/security forces firing/actions, followed by proper, time-bound
administrative action. It is made clear that the police have no license to kill
anyone in any situation, unless they can justify this action under Section 100
of the IPC, which has to be done in a judicial procedure.
5) Provide proper rehabilitation to families of deceased, injured, and
traumatized victims, especially the raped.
6) Compensation as interim relief should be arranged promptly. Compensation
should be adequate and purposeful. Compensation should be for both injury to
person as well as for damage to property, i.e. houses, etc.
7) The State should immediately establish Fast Track Courts for the purpose of
trying the large number of cases which are pending.
8) Both state as well as central governments should take immediate steps to
address the sufferings of detainees who are languishing in various jails and
interrogation centres in and outside the state of Jammu and Kashmir and have
been complaining of torture and inhuman treatment inside the jails.
9) The State should provide witness protection since many of the witnesses are
Justice S. Suresh, former Judge, Bombay High Court
Justice Malay Sengupta, former CGI, Sikkim High Court
Justice A. Baruah, former Judge, Calcutta High Court
Professor Kamal Mittra Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi
Dr. Nusrat Andrabi, former Principal, Government Women’s College, Srinagar
Professor Anuradha Chinoy, Jawahrlal Nehru University, Delhi
Shujaat Bukhari, senior journalist, Srinagar
IPT was organised by HRLN (Human Rights Law Network) & ANHAD
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date : 23/02/2010…………………………..your’s sincerely,
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INDIA: Dubey represents a decaying system
The case of police torture reported from Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh state on 17
February must be a shame for the entire country. The video of sexual harassment
and torture of a Dalit woman by Police Sub-Inspector, Mr. Kailasnath Dubey, in
the presence of another woman officer in full public view was televised across
the country. As usual, when the incident became public, the government
reluctantly responded by temporarily suspending the officer.
The video, available from a newsfeed by The Times of India is available here.
Officers like Dubey are not rare in India. Cases documented by the Asian Human
Rights Commission (AHRC) show a consistent and widespread pattern in the use of
torture and other forms of inhuman treatment by law enforcement agencies in the
country. Contrary to the general belief like those reflected in the viewers’
comments in the video mentioned above, police officers who resort to violence
and inhuman treatment against persons in their custody, or members of the public
are omnipresent in India.
The current state of Indian police is reflected in Dubey’s despicable act. The
incident is the external manifestation of an inept and wasted institution,
incapable of discharging the responsibilities of public service. Dubey is the
representative of a state institution that has been neglected, overburdened and
systematically denied any form of modernisation. The primitiveness of this
institution is reflected in its intellect that still depends on brute force as
an accepted means of crime investigation. Its colonial mindset is echoed in the
acts of police officers like Dubey, who believe that it is their lawful right to
punish people at will.
The government that has done nothing so far to modernise the law enforcement
agencies is solely responsible for this. This neglect is intentional, and is a
calculated negation of the constitutional duty by the government. When
legislative processes that pleases the administration’s whims like the
Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill, 2008 gets a ‘fast lane’
approach, an equally or probably more important piece of legislation, the
Prevention of Torture Bill, 2008 is subjected to the legislative deepfreeze
since the day it was drafted.
Government’s lack of interest in the issue is reflected in the Bill. The Bill, a
mere 477 words in a page and half, not only fails to meet international
standards against torture, but also falls short of the country’s own domestic
jurisprudence on the issue developed by its courts, in particular the Supreme
Court of India. The Bill, like Dubey, represents yet another institution in the
country, its legislature, and its collective intellectual dishonesty.
Temporarily suspending Dubey from service is a standard practice adopted by the
government to avoid responsibility. Dubey is a Sub-Inspector of Police, having
officers under his command and above him. The question is, what other procedures
will follow the suspension.
Will there be an independent investigation in the case? Is there any mechanism
other than the facade of a departmental inquiry to investigate crimes of this
nature? Are Dubey’s acts a crime? If it is a crime, how is it different from a
crime of similar nature committed by an ordinary citizen? Are Dubey’s superior
officers responsible for Dubey’s conduct? And above all, how would the
government compensate the victim in the case and based on what standards?
Torture is viewed as a heinous crime. It is condemned internationally and its
use considered a denominator with which the justice institutions are assessed.
Good law enforcement agencies being a necessary requisite for development, in
developed nations, torture is rare as opposed to countries like India.
Sustainable and equitable growth is impossible to achieve without healthy
India has thus far failed to accept the reality that its policing requires an
overhauling. The country has conveniently excused its self from ratifying the UN
International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment on the ground that its domestic legal framework is
capable of dealing with the issue without obliging to an international
India has repeatedly refused to accept the request of the Rapporteur on Torture
to visit the country. In fact it has refused entry to several other mandate
holders within the UN framework, a negative denominator with which India’s human
rights framework is assessed.
Torture negates the concept of democracy. It promotes corruption and mostly
affects the poor. Torture has no place in a rule of law framework and vitiates
the moral as well as legal authority of a government.
A government that lets its law enforcement agencies to torture the citizens
rules by fear not by the law. Such a government is equally responsible for the
crime like the torturer police officer.
India Seeks Jail For GM Food Critics
By Devinder Sharma
I am not sure whether you would believe your ears. You can’t probably imagine
that any sensible government (except for USA, of course) can try to gag your
voice. If you thought that your fundamental right to speech and freedom is
guaranteed under the Constitution, you need to think again. The proposed
National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority (NBRA) bill is actually trying not
only to silence the opposition to GM foods, but also has provisions that can put
you in jail for a minimum of six months.
Look at the power of the GM companies, the ghost of the Emergency era is back.
During the Emergency, all those who opposed Mrs Indira Gandhi were jailed. But
the proposed NBRA goes still further. In addition to putting you in jail, it
also imposes a fine of Rs 2 lakh. And if you hold a demonstration against a
university or try to ‘obstruct’ research, you face imprisonment for three months
and/or a fine of Rs 5 lakh.
This is the power and reach of the GM companies. The US is already contemplating
legal provisions which will outlaw organic farming. In India, the Department of
Biotechnology, which has possibly framed this legislation, is aiming at turning
Indian science into a ghetto.
If the bill was already in force, you and me (those who opposed the introduction
of Bt brinjal) would have been in jail by now. Dr M S Swaminathan and Dr Pushpa
Bhargava too would have been in jail. Interestingly, and as I told Mail Today:
“Environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who has questioned the safety of GM crops,
would have been behind bars because he would have violated it.”
Here is the report from the front page of Mail Today:
GOVT MOOTS JAIL FOR GM FOOD CRITICS
By Dinesh C Sharma in New Delhi
Draconian clause in biotech regulatory Bill aims at muzzling debate on safety of
IF THE ministry of science and technology has its way, criticising genetically-
modified ( GM) products could land you in jail.
An Indian citizen who questions the safety of any GM food or medicine could be
put behind bars for a minimum period of six months under a new law proposed by
The clause to silence critics of GM food is contained in the Biotechnology
Regulatory Authority of India ( BRAI) Bill,2009 prepared by the Department of
Biotechnology, which is a wing of the ministry of science and technology headed
by Prithviraj Chavan.
‘Misleading public about organism and products’ is one of the crimes for which
punishment has been prescribed in Section 63, Chapter 13 of the Bill which deals
with various ” offences and penalties”. The clause specifically deals with
critics of biotech products including GM food crops.
PEOPLE’S RESISTANCE TO POSCO
People in Niyamgiri Hills Under Threat
I am deeply concerned about the negative impacts that a planned bauxite mine in
the Niyamgiri Hills will have on the Dongria Kondh, an Advisai community that
has lived on and around the Niyamgiria Hills for centuries. The Dongria Kondh
depend on these Hills for their food, water, livelihoods and cultural identity.
If mining goes ahead their entire way of life and their survival as a distinct
people is under threat.
I am also concerned about the impact of Vendanta Aluminium’s refinery in
Lanjigarh. The existing refinery operation has caused air and water pollution,
and undermined the human rights of local people. Despite this, Vedanta Aluminium
– the operator – has sought permission for a six-fold of the refinery’s
No assessment of the human rights impact of either the mine or refinery has ever
been undertaken – despite the clear risks. Local people have been given almost
no accurate information on either project, and consultation processes have been
The companies involved in the mining and refinery projects, both subsidiaries of
Vedanta Resources – have repeatedly ignored community concerns, breached state
and national regulatory frameworks and failed to adhere to accepted
international standards and principles in relation to the human rights impact of
business. The government of India has failed to enforce national legal and
regulatory requirements properly and protect human rights.
I urge you to:
– Refuse clearance for the refinery expansion and mining plans until full human
rights impact assessments are carried out, and human rights concerns addressed.
This includes respecting the rights of the Dongria Kondh to their traditional
lands and seeking their free, prior, informed consent in relation to the
– Take action to address the existing pollution caused by the Lanjigarh refinery
and enforce laws and regulations to prevent any further pollution.
Classic Financial and Corporate Scandals
“Bankers who hire money hungry geniuses should not always express surprise and
amazement when some of them turn around with brilliant, creative, and illegal
means of making money.”
The quotation is from a speech by the financial thriller writer on the
Psychology of Risk, Speculation and Fraud, at a conference on EMU in Amsterdam.
Visit : http://projects.exeter.ac.uk/RDavies/arian/scandals/classic.html ,
Shed a Tear for US Democracy
by Robert Weissman, Public Cititzen
January 22nd, 2010
Shed a tear for US democracy.
Yesterday, in the case Citizens United v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that
corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to
influence election outcomes.
Money from Exxon, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer and the rest of the Fortune 500 is
already corroding the policy making process in Washington, state capitals and
city halls. Now, the Supreme Court tells these corporate giants that they have a
constitutional right to trample our democracy.
In eviscerating longstanding rules prohibiting corporations from using their own
monies to influence elections, the court invites giant corporations to open up
their treasuries to buy election outcomes. Corporations are sure to accept the
The predictable result will be corporate money flooding the election process;
huge targeted campaigns by corporations and their front groups attacking
principled candidates who challenge parochial corporate interests; and a
chilling effect on candidates and election officials, who will be deterred from
advocating and implementing policies that advance the public interest but injure
Because the decision is made on First Amendment constitutional grounds, the
impact will be felt not only at the federal level, but in the states and
localities, including in state judicial elections.
In one sense, the decision was a long time in coming. Over the past 30 years,
the Supreme Court has created and steadily expanded the First Amendment
protections that it has afforded for-profit corporations.
But in another sense, the decision is a startling break from Supreme Court
tradition. Even as it has mistakenly equated money with speech in the political
context, the court has long upheld regulations on corporate spending in the
electoral context. The Citizens United decision is also an astonishing overreach
by the court. No one thought the issue of corporations’ purported right to spend
money to influence election outcomes was at stake in this case until the Supreme
Court so decreed. The case had been argued in lower courts, and was originally
argued before the Supreme Court, on narrow grounds related to application of the
McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.
The court has invented the idea that corporations have First Amendment rights to
influence election outcomes out of whole cloth. There is surely no originalist
interpretation to support this outcome, since the court created the rights only
in recent decades. Nor can the outcome be justified in light of the underlying
purpose and spirit of the First Amendment. Corporations are state-created
entities, not real people. They do not have expressive interests like humans;
and, unlike humans, they are uniquely motivated by a singular focus on their
economic bottom line.
Corporate spending on elections defeats rather than advances the democratic
thrust of the First Amendment.
We, the People cannot allow this decision to go unchallenged. We, the People
cannot allow corporations to take control of our democracy.
There are some things that can be done to mitigate the damage from today’s
First, we must have public financing of elections. Public financing will give
independent candidates a base from which they may be able to compete against
candidates benefiting from corporate expenditures. We will intensify our efforts
to win rapid passage of the Fair Elections Now Act, which would provide
congressional candidates with an alternative to corporate-funded campaigns
before fundraising for the 2010 election is in full swing. Sponsored by Sen.
Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, and Rep. John Larson, D-Connecticut, the bill would
encourage unlimited small-dollar donations from individuals and provide
candidates with public funding in exchange for refusing corporate contributions
or private contributions in amounts of more than $100. The proposal has broad
support, including more than 126 co-sponsors in the House.
In the wake of the court’s decision, it is also essential that the presidential
public financing system be made viable again. Cities and states will also need
to enact public financing of elections.
Congress must ensure that corporate CEOs do not use corporate funds for
political purposes, against the wishes of shareholders, with legislation
requiring an absolute majority of shares to be voted in favor, before any
corporate political expenditure is permitted. There are other legislative
approaches to limit today’s damage, including a range of measures proposed by
Representative Alan Grayson, D-Florida.
These mitigating measures will not be enough to offset today’s decision,
however. The decision itself must be overturned.
We need a constitutional amendment specifying that for-profit corporations are
not entitled to First Amendment protections, except for freedom of the press. A
constitutional amendment is not a thing to throw around lightly. But today’s
decision so imperils our democratic well-being, and so severely distorts the
rightful purpose of the First Amendment, that a constitutional corrective is
Winning a constitutional amendment will be a long-term effort. The starting
point is for the people to petition their government to demand action. Public
Citizen with allies has launched such a petition effort. Got to
to sign the petition.
The Supreme Court has lost its way. Democracy is rule of the people — real,
live humans, not artificial entity corporations. Now it’s time for the people to
reassert their rights.
Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen .
Asia Inhales While the West Bans the Deadly Carcinogen
by Melody Kemp, Special to CorpWatch
February 16th, 2010
Seoul University’s Dr Domyung Paek addresses the ANROAV meeting Phnom Penh 2009.
In parts of Asia, carrying 500 grams of one white powder can draw a death
sentence, but importing 1,000 tons of another lethal white dust is both legal
Asbestos, a known carcinogen banned in much of the world, is a common and
dangerous building block in much of Asia’s development and construction boom.
This other white powder causes 100,000 occupational deaths per year, according
to Medical News Today.
While images of kids with heroin-loaded needles stuck in their arms spark public
outrage, clouds of asbestos fibers in factories and on construction sites often
draw official shrugs and denials. Illicit drug use does not rank among the top
ten causes of death in young adults, according to a 2009 global study of
adolescent health by the Murdoch Children’s Research Center in Melbourne in
2009. But in some Asian nations including China, asbestos is in the top ten
causes of occupational disease in laborers, some of whom were exposed as working
children. The numbers are generally thought to be higher since much of Asia’s
data rely on a highly mobile workforce with high a turnover rate.
Like a sleeping grizzly bear, asbestos can be deadly when disturbed, and all
along the mining, manufacturing, installation, cutting, and deconstruction
processes, the mineral is turned into air-borne fibers that lodge in the lungs
and cause fatal respiratory diseases, including mesothelioma.
Across much of Asia, white asbestos, also known as chrysotile, is widely used to
make asbestos-cement construction material such as roofing tiles, wall panels,
and expansion joints, as a fire proofer, and in brake linings and gaskets in
large vehicles. As part of the process of development, people are trading
bug-filled, flammable grass roofs for asbestos cement tiles and walls.
A few years ago at a state-owned roof tile factory in Vietnam young male workers
clad only in shorts carried bags labeled “Asbestos-Kazakhstan.” The air was
thick with white dust huffing up like steam from lava. Visiting occupational
health and safety experts held their breath as long as they could; some
smothered their faces in dust masks. The workers did not have that luxury. Their
only protection was handkerchiefs tied bandit-style over their mouths and noses
as they climbed the sides of the hoppers.
“I know it’s dangerous,” said the manager spreading his hands and shrugging,
“but it’s also cheap, and people only want to buy cheap tiles.”
Drugs or Dust
“It’s just a PR campaign when they say that asbestos can kill,” Uralasbest’s
Viktor Ivanov told AFP in 2007, when he headed the Chrysotile Association, an
industry group based in the Russian town of Asbest. The website for Uralasbest,
the Ural Asbestos Mining & Ore Dressing Company, calls the company the world’s
“oldest and largest manufacturer and supplier of chrysotile.” In 2005 the
Russian firm produced about a quarter of the world’s chrysotile asbestos and
exported it to 35 countries (pdf): 53 percent outside the Commonwealth of
Independent States (to China, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, etc.), and
13 percent within the CIS nations that had been part of the former Soviet Union
(Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, etc.).
Very little of the product ends up in the West. More than 60 countries have
partially or completely banned asbestos, including the United States, Australia,
Japan and South Korea. The EU nations and others have completely banned both
brown amphibole and white chrysotile asbestos, and the International Agency for
Research on Cancer has classified all types as a human carcinogen. Although some
studies have found that chrysotile’s small fiber size makes it less virulent
than brown amphibole, the WHO is unequivocal: “no threshold has been established
for the carcinogenic risk of chrysotile.”(pdf)
But asbestos merchants, disputing World Health Organization (WHO) data and
overwhelming scientific evidence, claim that chrysotile is safe. Uralabest’s
website decries “the wave of anti-asbestos psychose [sic] [that] was spread over
Western Europe.” “Today’s asbestos industry is totally harmless,” Tatiana
Kochetova of the Asbest-based Institute for Asbestos Projects told the Russian
Journal. “There hasn’t been one case of asbestos caused disease here for many
years. Locally produced asbestos does not cause any harm.”
Researchers Jock McCulloch and Geoffrey Tweedale document that the rates of
malignancies dropped in Asbest only after the introduction of dust control
technologies (and the dispersal of ill workers). Those same safety measures
that, in any case, mitigate rather than eliminate risk are largely lacking in
the countries to which Russian asbestos is exported. (McCulloch J and Tweedale G
2008 Defending the Indefensible: The Global asbestos Industry and its Fight for
Uralabest’s product comes from Asbest, a classic monogorod, or single-industry
town in Bazhenouskoye in north of Kazakhstan, along the eastern slope of the
Ural ridge. The open-pit mine covers 90 sq. km. and stretches 11.5 km long, 1.8
km wide and almost 300 meters deep. There, some 10,000 workers turn out more
than 500,000 tons of chrysotile asbestos annually.
In 2009, Uralasbest was forecasting production of 450,000 tons, “a significant
portion of the world market,” and its FY 2006 revenues were $192 million,
according to Rye, Man & Gor Securities (pdf). Russia produced 925,000 tons of
asbestos in 2008, according to the US Geological Survey, almost half the
estimated world production of about 2 million tons a year, and worth $900
Once a state-owned corporation, Uralasbest is now privatized. More than half of
Uralasbest share capital is owned through a Russian regional bank (Urals Bank
for Reconstruction and Development). Stroyexport, another Russian company, owns
14 percent, and two South Africa-registered companies — Petrov & Co and Mavrol
Management — own 21percent. The top managers control about 30 percent of the
company (pdf). In 2007 Uralasbest entered into a joint venture with Swiss Minmet
Financing Company to recover magnesium from its asbestos mine tailings. This
move was meant as a hedge against the global decline in construction.
Perhaps more threatening to Uralabest’s economic future than recession is the
growing awareness that asbestos is toxic, and alternatives are available. In
2000, citing Canada’s high level support for its industry as a model, Russian
asbestos industry officials sought Vladimir Putin’s assistance in countering
Russian corporations also looked to Canada’s — and Kazakh’s — marketing
efforts in newly rich Asian nations. That strategy has produced rich results
according to the World Asbestos Reports, and the WHO confirms that some
countries have reduced restrictions and increased production and use of
In 2008 India – along with Pakistan, Canada, Russia – rejected the banning of
chrysotile asbestos mandated under the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed
Consent (PIC). PIC lists chemicals that require exchange of information on
health hazards prior to trade.
India, which imported 360,000 tons of asbestos in 2006, claimed that evidence of
chrysotile’s lethality was not conclusive, and that it was awaiting the results
of a major health study before joining the convention, according to Madhumitta
Dutta of the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI).
However, “India failed to inform the international community … that the
[health] study was funded in part by the asbestos industry,” charged Dutta.
“Still worse, the study was kept under wraps, and is not accessible to public
health specialists or labor groups.”
Gopal Krishna, a consultant on clean industry and also of BANI, condemned his
country’s rejection of PIC. “There is a political consensus in India to promote
asbestos at any human cost,” he wrote in India Together in 2006.
Underlying that consensus are the close links between the asbestos industry and
some prominent Indian politicians. “With asbestos firms being owned by
politicians or the state itself, the government seems to be following a classic
ostrich policy,” Krishna wrote. “The reality is that the country’s most powerful
parliamentarians bless the asbestos industry.”
They include Buddhadev Bhattacharya, the chief minister of Bengal’s Communist
government, who gave Utkal Asbestos Ltd. an Environment Excellence Award which
it used in its advertising. Rebranding itself in 2006, the company dropped the
word asbestos from its name. Now called UAL Industries Ltd., it is a major
producer of fiber cement corrugated sheets and accessories under the brand
Konark, and its website boasts that it “has left no stone unturned to achieve
its motive of becoming the leading player in Eastern India.”
Visaka Industries’ chairman, G. Vivekanand, is the son of G. Venkataswamy, a
member of Parliament, deputy leader of the Indian Congress Parliamentary Party,
and a former Union Textile Minister. Vivekanand put out a fact sheet claiming
that chrysotile is safe, and blamed Western media coverage of past events for
generating unfounded fear.
Indian media reported that Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi encouraged Visaka
industries to set up in her constituency Rae Bareli, and saw the plants as a way
to boost employment and electability. The plans were fast tracked, breaking
records for passage through the Departments of Environment and Forests. Visaka
annually produces 600,000 tons of asbestos sheets, mostly used in roofing. One
of its main marketing targets is India’s rural population, 80 to 85 percent of
which now live under thatched roofs, the company website notes.
In October 2009 Visaka Industries announced it is setting up a 100,000-ton
capacity asbestos cement sheet plant at Sambalpur in Orissa at an estimated cost
of $8.6 million “to meet the rural demand.” It is also ramping up the capacity
of its Pune plant from 65,000 to 100,000 tons per annum, according Vivekanand.
In 2007 an Indian news channel showed workers hand-mixing asbestos into rice,
while a voice-over intoned that chrysotile is safe enough to use as a husking
agent. The rice was later sold as premium basmati.
Dying to Work
“I have seen young men suffering from the cancers caused by this material
[asbestos],” says a guard at an asbestos cement sheet factory in Guangdong,
China. “The bosses don’t care, and the government intimidates us [who are]
working for safety. They say we are sabotaging China’s development. Sometimes I
get very frightened and cannot sleep thinking I will be arrested. I may get the
disease, as the air is full of dust. I hope that someone would help me if that
happened. I can’t quit. Where would I go? I have no skills and jobs are hard to
This worker’s story is echoed throughout the Asia. In China alone, the official
incidence of industrial lung diseases is around 100,000 per year. Experts
familiar with Beijing’s official statistics would multiply that figure by three
or four to get close to the real toll.
Harvard University and the World Health Organization report that occupational
injuries and disease already surpass infectious disease as the major causes of
death in the developing world and threaten to undermine any economic or moral
imperatives gained by trade. More people die per day of workplace illness
throughout the world than are killed by global terrorist attacks, wars, drugs,
or by the various pandemics (such as avian and swine flu) that attract huge
institutional funding, according to Sanjiv Pandita, director of the Hong Kong
based Asia Monitor Resource Center.
If you consider that 100,000 per year die of asbestos alone, it is not hard to
extrapolate that figure to match Pandita’s assertion. Meanwhile, the systematic
erosion of trade union power and labor standards by globalization has
exacerbated the problem and undermined opposition/occupational justice.
Working for Safety
Workers and activists around Asia are not convinced by industry reassurances and
are getting organized. At a September 2009 meeting in Phnom Penh of the Asian
Network for the Rights of Accident Victims (ANROAV),120 activists and
Asian-based academics from 16 countries heard stories of frustration and
harassment. Delegates charged that globalization has led to “state sponsored
pimping”– governments selling workers’ bodies and lives in return for
The importance of the issue, and frustration from waiting for governments and
employers to act are evidenced by steadily increasing attendance at ANROAV’s
annual meetings over its ten years’ existence. “While lots of money is made by
CSR [corporate social responsibility] consultants, we see little change in the
death rates” said Hong Chee, a Hong Kong delegate.
Mandy Hawes, an American occupational health and safety advocate, reminded
delegates that occupational standards may be legal but not safe. “We should
bring environmental and occupational standards into line,” she said.
Opposition to asbestos is growing and is fueled around the world by a flood of
compensation demands. Claimants, dragging desperately on oxygen, have pleaded
before TV cameras for compensation and an end to asbestos use.A regional
coordinating group was set up earlier in 2009 at a meeting in Bangkok. A-Ban is
seeking an Asia-wide asbestos ban. It has its work cut out. As the anti-asbestos
activists know all too well, bans on international trade in asbestos have been
barely disturbed the industry. Like Uralasbest, companies have merely shifted
their marketing focus to developing countries where environmental and workplace
standards are more lax. China now absorbs 54 percent of global production, says
Ye-Yong Choi of BANKO, the Korean movement that recently achieved a ban on
He recommends a global campaign in which activists “move much more strategically
and collectively. …I have felt we are too gentle in some way whilst our enemy,
the asbestos industry, moves very collectively and aggressively.”
Anatomy of Asbestos
Despite industry and government denials, evidence of chrysotile’s harm was clear
in lung X-rays showing unmistakable white patches indicating the inevitably
deadly progression of mesothelioma–a cancer directly linked to asbestos
exposure. Etched into the medical data on the corner of each film was the word
“chrysotile,” the supposedly safe form of the mineral.
The X-rays belonged to Dr. Domyung Paek, chest disease specialist and
epidemiologist from the University of Seoul, Korea. His collection of medical
transparencies showed that work-and environment-related chest disease leaves a
distinctive radiological calling card that is easy to differentiate from
tuberculosis and other lung diseases.
All the victims in Paek’s X-rays were Asian workers, belying the myth propagated
by some Asian labor officials that asbestosis and mesothelioma are “Western”
diseases. Paek predicted that Asian nations would see tsunamis of
asbestos-related diseases, marked by the gasping deaths of the pale, drawn – and
often young – victims. His view is supported by Japanese researcher Ken
Takahashi, who on reviewing historical and global trends, found that marked
rises in incidence and prevalence inevitably preceded national bans.
Studies cited by McCulloch and Tweedale have found asbestos disease in young
Russian and Kazakh workers with less than three years exposure. Victims usually
die a year after diagnosis. Expensive drugs such as Alimpta and Platinol can
lengthen a patient’s life by up to six months, but are well beyond the capacity
of Asian workers. Palliative care, a tall order in most poor countries, is the
best they can hope for.
The pain of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases can be agonizing
and requires the other white powder — morphine — to provide relief. Ironically
many of the countries where asbestos disease is rife, such as India, have a
shortfall in the supply of legal scheduled opiates.
But there is no shortfall in asbestos. In addition to the raw mineral imported
from Russia and other countries, Europeans keep sending old ships to India and
Bangladesh to be broken up. Bangladesh needs the steel, but along with it comes
tons of old friable asbestos including the more dangerous brown variety.
China, in addition to its role as major importer, also exports asbestos. The
sourcing website Alibaba.com lists at least ten Chinese companies, some with ISO
9001 certification, that sell asbestos products. Tsyuyoshi Kawakami of the
U.N.’s International Labor Organization’s Bangkok office found Chinese asbestos
in Lao cement factories on the outskirts of Vientiane. The Lao government,
currently enjoying a resources boom, is thinking of exploiting its lodes of
asbestos, according to a Lao NGO worker.
There are some bright spots. Thailand, until recently one of the region’s major
users (brake linings, gaskets, and roofing tiles), has reduced both importation
and production of asbestos-containing goods.
Other Asian countries are beginning to rethink asbestos use. Joint research done
by BANKO and Indonesian’s own fledgling anti-asbestos organization IBAN in 2009,
documented asbestos on the windowsills of schools and homes surrounding two
asbestos cement works in Cibinong (West Java).
Cambodia, too, is starting to recognize that its burgeoning construction
industry may bring the hazardous materials along for the ride. Dr. Leng Tong,
director of Occupational Health and Safety in Cambodia’s Ministry for Labor and
Vocational Training told the ANROAV delegates that “Cambodia strongly commits …
to eliminate asbestos from the workplaces in the region.”
“If he is serious,” Choi of BANKO commented, “it would not only gain Cambodia a
huge amount of prestige in the world, but also provide a wonderful example to
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