Death Toll In JNPC Accident rises To 4

The death toll in the accident in a JNPC unit at Visakhapatnam has risen to four. The unit’s licence was renewed only recently after it was suspended by AP Pollution Control Board for several months.

Srinivas

Visakhapatnam: The death toll has risen to four in the fire accident that took place in a pharmaceutical company in the Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City (JNPC) on May 2, with one more worker succumbing to death on Thursday at a private hospital in the city.

Two workers died on the spot and three were grievously injured on Tuesday when fire broke out in Azico Biophore Pharmaceuticals in the JNPC, located at Parawada near here. Mr. M.Sivakumar (24), a chemist and P.Nageswara Rao (30), a helper died instantly. Of the three injured, Mr. G. Srinivasa Rao (42) succumbed to death on Thursday while the block in-charge of the unit Mr. M. Appala Naidu (31) died on Wednesday.

Ironically, the fire broke out at Azico Biophore Pharmaceutical Limited whose license was recently renewed after several months’ suspension by the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APCCB). The Board had suspended its license of this company and four other units in October 2016 for not complying with the waste disposal norms.

Boasted as a global destiny for manufacturers of bulk drugs, active pharmaceutical ingredients and intermediaries by both the developer of this sector specific Special Economic Zone, the JNPC has turned out to be a veritable death trap for many a labourer working in pharma units. Scores of fatal accidents in the recent past lend credence to it. In all, 26 workers died and 66 were injured in about 30 accidents in just a five-year span since 2013 mostly in the JNPC units and a couple of pharmaceutical industries in the district as well.

On 24 May 2016, a technician died on the spot and about 20 workers experienced severe breathing problems in Srikar Pharmaceuticals Limited when an ammonia chiller exploded leaking pungent chemical into open. A fire in Divi Labs at Chippada killed two workers on 6 April 2016.A chemical reactor exploded in Sainar Chemicals leaving two dead on 28 September 2015.  Two more workers lost their lives and 26 were wounded on 11 April 2014 in Deccan Fine Chemicals located at Rajavaram when a reactor blasted. This unit saw a major fire once again on 24 January 2016.In an incident that occurred in Glowchem Pharmaceuticals on 28 June 2014, eleven persons sustained injuries. The warehouse of the same unit had caught fire just a year ago threating the safety of staff and surrounding villages. An explosion in Vegesna Pharmaceuticals on 7 July 2014 took the lives of eight workers. A fire engulfed Ovra Labs on 17 March, 2013. An explosion in Cori Organics on 2 September 2016 resulted in two deaths. In Hetero Drugs, which is located in Nakkapalli in Visakhapatnam district, four workers were killed when a reactor exploded on 22 June 2016. A major fire broke out in Biomax Company at Duvvada SEZ on 27 April 2016 and it took about two days to bring the fire under control. An explosion in Heritage Food India Ltd, located at Bayyavaram, killed three workers on 7 April 2013.

At a review meeting held on Thursday with concerned departments Minister for Human Resources Ganta Srinivasa Rao announced a committee constituted by the principal secretaries of various departments and headed by the factories department. The sole aim of the committee is to review the fire safety standards in the industries located in the district and fix the problems.

The Human Rights Forum district president M. Sarat points out that this is not the first committee set up by the State government to examine the safety issues. A safety audit conducted by the district administration in May 2016 made it clear that about 50 percent of pharma units in the JNPC were not adhering to safety norms, he said. The frequent accidents and environmental damage could have been averted, had the government initiated proper action against the flouting industries, he opined. Mr. EAS Sarma, former energy secretary to GOI and social activist demands more rigorous safety systems in industries. District secretary of CPM, K.Lokanatham says that most of the units in the JNPC are ill-equipped in fighting fires and explosions. The workers are not given proper safety wear and not taught about the hazards associated with the chemicals they handle, he laments.

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