It was October 9, 2020. A 22-year old worker from Uttar Pradesh Kishan Kumar was sleeping in a makeshift accommodation inside a tool factory at the Cuncolim Industrial Estate when a fish processing unit reported ammonia gas leakage.
The young worker breathed his last while four others were rushed to the hospital after they inhaled the ammonia gas. The incident had only brought to the fore the contentious issue of industrial workers residing inside the industrial units at Cuncolim in flagrant violation of Labour norms right under the nose of the government authorities.
That’s not all. When dengue and malaria raised its ugly head in the Cuncolim Industrial Estate in recent times, inspections by the Health department had revealed residential quarters built inside the units for the work force.
Friday’s joint inspection by the Labour Commissioner, Managing Director of Industrial Development Corporation and the Inspector of Factories and Boilers have unearthed the same old story – that residential blocks housing factory workers are dotting inside the Cuncolim Industrial Estate.
The inspection has reconfirmed that the ground reality has not changed for the better post-death of the 22-year-old industrial worker from Uttar Pradesh in the Ammonia gas leakage, through up a moot question – will Friday’s joint inspection cap the illegal residential units in the Cuncolim industrial units and ensure the safety of workers and residents staying outside the industrial estate?
Social activist, Dr Jorson Fernandes was candid in saying the joint inspection will remain on paper unless backed by strong action on the ground. And, he reiterated his stand that what the Cuncolim Industrial Estate urgently requires is a comprehensive inspection by all the agencies, including Labour Commissioner, Inspector of Factories and Boilers, Health, Water Resources Department, IDC, etc to unearth and put a stop to all illegalities at the Cuncolim IDC,” he said.
He added: “When the Health Department has carried out inspection of the Cuncolim Industrial Estate, we had come across workers cooking their meals with LGP cylinders etc. We have information that a truck supplying vegetables comes directly from Belagavi to deliver vegetables to the workers putting up inside the industrial estate.”
Dr Jorson pointed out that the authorities, including the labour commissioner and the IDC should immediately order clampdown on the residential units if they have discovered residential blocks inside the estate. “If the authorities are serious in curbing the illegalities, let them walk the talk. We have seen over the years how inspection reports were confined to the record books of the concerned departments,” he added.
Sources in the know informed that some of the industrial units have built the residential units inside the factory premises to accommodate their workforce brought from across the borders. “The modus operandi followed by the unscrupulous units is simple; to beat the high labour costs as the units procure their labour from other states. And, to save money on their accommodation, they are all houses inside the units itself in violation of the labour rules in force,” informed an official in the know.
Demand for sealing units involved in illegalities
MARGAO: Leader of Opposition, Yuri Alemao has demanded sealing of all units in the Cuncolim Industrial Estate involved in illegalities, pollution and loss of revenue to the exchequer.
A day after a joint inspection was carried out at the Cuncolim Industrial Estate by government agencies, the Opposition leader said his Legislative Assembly Questions have compelled the government to send Labour Commissioner, IDC Managing Director & Inspector of Factories & Boilers to Cuncolim Industrial Estate to conduct joint inspection of various units.
He has demanded stringent action against all the illegalities.
Reacting to the joint inspection of three government departments in Cuncolim Industrial Estate on Friday, Yuri again demanded for a Nodal Agency to monitor activities in industrial estates.
“With blatant violations coming to the fore during the inspection, time has come to seal all such units in Cuncolim Industrial Estate which have turned out to be dens of illegalities & irregularities causing air & water pollution, loss to State Revenue & illegal encroachments,” Yuri demanded.
He added: “I had raised the issue pertaining to air & water pollution, overproduction and loss to State Revenue due to non-payment of GST on 19th January 2023 in the third session of Goa Legislative Assembly. I have tabled Legislative Assembly Questions for the coming session to know the actions initiated by the government till now.”
Saying the Cuncolim Industrial Estate has turned out to be a curse for Cuncolim residents due to rampant illegalities & pollution in last 10 years, Yuri said, “It is with the connivance of the government authorities & patronage of past MLA all such illegalities continued. I am committed to put a permanent full stop to all such violations and give relief to Cuncolkars.”
The Cuncolim MLA said he has also moved a Private Member Resolution urging government to appoint a High Level Inquiry Commission of Experts under Retired High Court Judge to investigate activities of industrial estates in Goa and check irregularities which are main cause of pollution, blasts & loss to government revenue.