This group tracks the responses of shipping industry towards environmental health concerns, highlights influence of shipping companies from EU, US and Japan etc on IMO and its Marine Environment Protection Committee & South Asian governments. It is keen to restore beaches in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to their pristine glory for the coming generations. For more information visit: www.toxicswatch.org, banasbestosindia.blogspot.com

16/09/2011

Global & Indian Trade Unions Unable to Help Migrant Workers of Alang Beach

Since 1983 when ship breaking activity started on Alang beach in Gujarat, India till date, its a journey from bad to worse. Workers on the Alang beach live in a "slave like condition".

If embargo by ship owners and ship breakers on media and external researchers is removed, the world will witness that here is a place where slavery is practiced with impunity. These migrant workers from North and East India are blatantly discriminated against by Gujarati and Maharashtrian politicians, officials and ship breakers. They suffer from the racist attitude of the local population as well.

All the trade unions who do some work for migrant workers involved in the ship breaking activity in India on the ground are under tremendous influence of ship breakers and shipowners. Some ship breakers have revealed that the trade union is tolerated because they help negotiate wages.

Whichever trade union talks on behalf of migrant workers must reveal as to what they have done to safe guard the occupational and environmental health of workers.

They must be asked as to what is their position on the ongoing contamination of Alang beach. For how long will the beach and its fragile coastal environment be turned into a grave yard of workers.

Between January 2011 and September 2011, 27 workers died in industrial accidents. The trade union or whoever claims to be working for the migrant workers of Alang beach must reveal as to what they have done to secure justice for these workers.

Ship owning countries are dumping their end-of-life vessels. Trade unions engaged with industrial activity on Alang beach must state what is their position on transfer of harm to South Asian beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Trade unions working in Alang have failed to ensure even clean drinking water. Their colossal failure is most evident from the fact that while accident rate in ship breaking is the worst among all the industrial sector still there is no hospital in Alang. This has been recorded in the report of the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights. The UN Special Rapporteur and Stefano Sensi, Human Rights Officer, UN Human Rights Council visited a number of shipbreaking yards accompanied by ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) among others. TWA is an applicant in the Supreme Court of India and has campaigned against end of life vessels like Le Clemenceau, MV RIKY (Kong Fredrick IX), SS Blue Lady (SS France, SS Norway), Platinum II (MV Oceanic, SS Independence) and many others.

It was during the Platinum II scandal that Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, the Special Rapporteur visited India. He said, “In order to ascertain the environmental impact of the shipbreaking industry, I recommend that an independent study be carried out to assess the actual and potential adverse effects that may be caused by the discharge of hazardous material into the natural environment, as well as the level of risk”.

The Special Rapporteur has noted that he was “shocked by the extremely poor conditions in which most workers live in Alang and Mumbai”. Semi-skilled and unskilled workers live in makeshift facilities lacking basic sanitation facilities, electricity and even safe drinking water. “I call on Governmental authorities to provide appropriate plots of lands, and facilitate the construction of adequate housing facilities for those who work in the yards. Adequate sanitation and drinking water facilities should also be put in place”. Special Rapporteur's report was presented to the UN Human Rights Council.

Will global trade unions and their Indian affiliates explain what have they done to stop the abuse of migrant workers? What is their position on the enviro-occupational health of migrant workers and the IMO's Convention on Ship Recycling/breaking which is anti-worker, anti-environment and anti-local community?

It is high time all civil rights, labour rights and environmental rights groups joined hands to intervene in a meaningful way beyond donor driven routine seminars and conferences for visible change on the ground because there cannot be 'national' environmentalism or labor rights movement. It must be holistic in spirit to combat the cannibalistic propensity of the ship owning companies which is making governmental and UN regulatory agencies subservient to lust for naked profit at any human and ecological cost unmindful of inter-generational inequity it perpetuates.

Gopal Krishna
Convener
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Web: imowatch.blogspot.com
Mb: 09818089660
E-mail; krishna2777@gmail.com

2 comments:

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