Visakhapatnam gas leak | NHRC takes Suo Moto cognizance, issues notice to Centre and AP Government

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The National Human Rights Commission took suo moto cognizance of the Styrene gas leak in Vizag which so far has claimed 11 lives, leaving another 5,000 ill. The NHRC has called it a violation of human rights. The leak affected people in a radius of about 3 km of the plant, leaving them with difficulty in breathing and skin rashes, the NHRC noted.

The NHRC, meanwhile, noted that at a time the country is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, the tragedy has come as a “bolt from the blue”, especially for the poor. The NHRC notice records that while there is no prima-facie evidence to suggest negligence or human errors, it was still a case of gross violation of human rights, with the very right to life victims being taken away.

The Commission has issued a notice to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, directing it to probe if the norms laid down under the relevant law, were being implemented at the industrial facility. The Secretary of the MCA has been asked to file a report within 4 weeks

The NHRC has also issued a notice to the Director-General of AP Police directing them to appraise the NHRC of the information on FIRs filed and the status of the investigation, within 4 weeks.

The NHRC has also sought a detailed reply from the Andhra Pradesh government on the issue including information on a rescue operation, the medical treatment provided to the people fallen sick and relief, and rehabilitation provided by the state authorities to the affected families.

Ground situation

The gas leak happened at the LG polymers industry in RR village in Visakhapatnam. Workers were preparing for the reopening of the plant when gas started leaking in the early hours.

The storage tank had 1900 MT of styrene gas. The management suspect that since the material was not used for long, a difference in temperature from top to bottom of the tank could have caused vapors and due to the pressure built, it could have breached the breather valve.

Workers could not adequately inform residents in the neighborhood as they were only a few of them. “We have arrested more than 50 percent of the vapors. More reaction inhibitors are needed, they are being brought from Gujarat. Once it is poured in, the chemical will be neutralized and arrested completely,” -J Shiva Shanker Reddy, Joint Chief Inspector of Factories, Visakhapatnam the Indian Express reported.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy has announced Rs 1 crore each as a relief to kin of people killed in the tragedy. Jagan, who visited the King George Hospital here, said that the government will also provide cash assistance to the injured. In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired an emergency meeting to review the situation and spoke to CM Jagan. Director-General of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) SN Pradhan said that leakage from the factory is now minimal but the NDRF personnel will be at the spot till it is totally plugged. Pradhan said 500 people belonging to 200-250 families living in the 3-km radius have been evacuated to safer places. The leakage was reported when workers were preparing for the reopening of the plant after the government provided relaxations in the coronavirus-forced lockdown.

Updates

  1. The National Green Tribunal also took cognisance on its own about the Visakhapatnam gas leak incident A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel will take up on Friday the matter titled “In re: Gas Leak at LG Polymers Chemical Plant in RR Venkatapuram Village Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh”.
  2. The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) demanded an inquiry into the Vishakhapatnam gas leak and stringent action against the guilty.
  3. UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric’s response to the incident -“We obviously send our condolences to the victims and hope for a quick recovery to those who have been impacted. And I think these kinds of incidents need to be fully investigated by the local authorities,”
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