Now BSL is shifting the blame on the outsource agency. A.K. Sharma, Senior General Manager (HR) has said “Our senior officials at the central level are taking steps to improve the safety measure at its plants.” He also has admitted that there has been negligence on the part of the outsource agency as far as the training of the workers is concerned.
A little reading between the lines provides a hint to where these statements are leading to. The blame for safety lapses, (read accidents) is now being shifted to the outsource agency. And these outsource agencies will vanish from the scene for some time to reappear later with a different name. It is worthwhile to mention here that many of the labor supplying agencies are not even registered with the district labor office.
A detailed look into the labor engagement in BSL opens up a Pandora’s Box. Locals are a no for engagement by the out sourcing agencies, the laborers are from other state so that they live here insecure and hence do not bother the hiring agency. The hired laborers are housed here in a scattered manner so that they do not interact and unite. The whole labour exploitation through this process of outsourcing needs to be looked closely.
Not even minimum wages are paid to these workers. Somehow the labour policy and lack of training on safety certainly contributes to the overall safety of the workers and the plant but certainly is not the sole, or even 'the major’ cause for the recurrent of accidents. Utter disregard to the safety norms and the second hand machinery are being blamed for these frequent accidents.
Mr. Suporno Satpathy, a Congress leader belonging to that area blames the frequent accidents on the second hand plants those have been imported. He also has warned that more such accidents may take place in other plants as well.
“Live green, Love green, Be green,” it is the slogan of Bhusan Steel Ltd (BSL) and ‘don’t be mean be green’ with this propagating slogans BSL has displaced also the pollution information level on his main gate. All pollution level information parameters shown are much below the standard limit, something which still remains unacceptable for the local people. After the recent brutal accident it came to the public mind and find out the reality of pollution in and around the plant and its impact on the peripheries life.
Bhusan claims on that accident time the pollution levels monitored by the BSL administration through continuous monitoring system reflected that sulphurdioxide was 13.7 unit, nitrozendioxide was 19.5 unit, particulate matter (PM) 10 was 69.4 unit, PM 2.5 was 32.2 unit and carbonmonoxide was 0.84 unit, Interestingly, all these data reflected figures much below the standard limit. The standard is 100 unit for PM 10, 60 unit for PM 2.5, 80 unit for sulphurdioxide and nitrogendioxide.
But the real picture is completely different. While machines installed (by the plant administration) were showing figures much below the pollution level, the naked human eye have a more pathetic story to tell. The entrance to the plant and the stretch of the highway between the railway crossing, and plant entrance is so dusty that one can not stand there for few minutes due to heavy vehicles movement, and the particular matter, especially fly ash, reduces visibility in the area.
Importantly, the plant had failed the pollution test carried out by the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB). The last ambient air quality test that was carried by the pollution watch dog March 3, 2013 provides that PM 10 in the area was in the range of 117-298 unites and Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) having a standard of 766 units. Similarly the last water pollution test done by OSPCB in Kisinda Nullah Jully 19 2013, were effluent is discharged by the plant, has reflected high level of fluoride that the standard limit.
Gita Sahu, Victim’s mother, “My minor son lost his leg due to mishap outside our village. We were given no compensation; we lost everything including our agriculture land. The company has never cared for the local people who sacrificed their land, livelihood, and families for the setting up of this company. We were tortured by the police, when we raised our voice for our rights.”
“Due to lack of adequate safety measures, mishaps occurred at regular intervals, which spread panic among the workers. According the sources in the directorate of boilers and factories, as many as 43 workers had died and hundreds injured in accidents. At least 15 workers died in 2009, 12 in 2010, 9 in 2011, 6 in 2012 and the spate of mishaps was continuing in 2013 as well. While 4 labours were killed in an accident in January last and 3 workers were critically injured. This is the official mishaps’ record but unofficial record say more than the double of this figure,” several victims’ families alleged.
Sagar Kumar Biswal, a local technical student, “After completing my ITI training, I was engaged for four years as an unskilled labourer with a wage of Rs. 100 per day. However, when I approached the company for a regular job, I was removed from even my casual job, and am not allowed to enter the company anymore. When I ran from pillar to post for my job, the company, by bribing the police, booked me under false cases and I was also put behind bars. People are afraid of going to the local police station to lodge a complaint. That is the way the police treats us.”
Interestingly, many heavy vehicles were plying inside the plants without number plates and the trucks are caring polluted poisonous ashes openly without any proper cover. It’s the best dubious way in which the BSL is functioning. Moreover, while there is widespread air pollution inside the plant a large number of maximum people inside are working without mask. A state government technocrat officer suggested that OSPCB should conduct surprise visit to check pollution levels in the BSL area.
“There are so many vehicles and plants operating inside BSL and chances are high that the data reflected on the electronic board is manipulated. After a visit to the place one can easily conclude without even scientifically testing that pollution level in the area is high,” the officer said.
He further added, “As far as health infrastructure inside the plant is concerned, there is a health center exclusively meant for the officers, but there is no such facility for the thousands of workers working inside the plant. Also there are many fly ash and solid waste dump hills in and around the plant and the administration has recently started to cover them up with soil.”
He asked to government concerned labour department, has ever the concerned officials verify the skilled and expertise of workers in BSL, those who are working inside the plant? There are very few skilled and expertise persons are working in BSL. For this accident in BSL is common in different times.
The pollution situation was serious earlier and whatever changes have been adopted by the plant administration is just because of the pressure exerted by OSPCB officers. After repeated pressure on BSP, they have taken some pollution control steps. OSPCB have served around 2-3 closure notices.
Although the BSL administration has installed many pollution control devices, the SPCB is in the dark about whether they are maintained properly and are functioning or not. Regular monitoring of industries in both the district of Anugul and Dhenkanal is very difficult due to staff shortage. There are innumerable chimneys inside the steel plant and many separate units and it is not possible for us to manually monitor each of them.”