New Delhi: Taking note of the recent fire at Bajaj Hindusthan Sugar's mill in Meerut, the National Green Tribunal has sought response from the Environment Ministry and Uttar Pradesh government on the issue after a plea sought measures to avert such incidents.
Fire At Sugar Mill In Meerut: NGT Shoots Notice To Centre, UP Govt
Two workers had died while one was hospitalised with burn injuries due to the fire in one of the storage tanks at the distillery division of the mill at Kinauni during loading of ethanol in containers. The incident occurred in the afternoon on May 26 and the fire could be fully extinguished in the evening next day with the help of state fire department along with the army. A bench headed by acting Chairperson Justice Jawad Rahim issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, UP government and Petroleum and Safety Organisation (PESO).
The notice was issued after advocate Sanjay Upadhyay, appearing for petitioner NGO SAFE, said the industrial unit was one of the 14 units of Bajaj Hindusthan Sugar Mills in the state and that none of the reports submitted by the UP government had any information on status of the distillery.
The lawyer said the distillery units were more accident prone during the summer months and appropriate directions should be issued to the authorities so that a similar mishap is averted in the future. The matter is listed for next hearing on July 24. The tribunal had earlier slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 on the UP government for the inordinate delay in filing a report on the status of distilleries and sugar mills manufacturing, storing and transporting ethanol without obtaining permission from PESO. The green panel had noted that despite its specific direction on February 22 to file the inspection report in two weeks, the state government failed to do so. The direction was issued after owners of some of the units, which were shut earlier for non-compliance of rules, had approached the court alleging that the UP government was delaying the inspection, which was necessary for licence renewal.
The green panel initially slapped Rs five lakh as costs for the delay but reduced it to Rs 50,000 on the repeated insistence of the counsel for the state.
The state government told the tribunal that it has complied with the order in "all seriousness" and inspected the five industries, but due to "inadvertence", the report could not be filed.
The order came after a few industries approached the tribunal seeking modification of its order directing all states to shut down distilleries running without PESO nod. The industries claimed that due to the NGT order, the authorities concerned were not inspecting their site resulting in delay in issuance of licences.
The order had come during the hearing of a contempt plea filed by NGO SAFE alleging that the authorities were allowing illegal operation of these units without licence and in contravention of the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules 1989, putting lives at grave risk. The plea referred to a UP Government's affidavit and contended that only two of the 35 distilleries had requisite licence while the others were manufacturing ethanol illegally. The industries manufacturing absolute alcohol or ethanol were not only operating illegally without the requisite permission from competent authorities, but also manipulating the actual total production, storage and sales figures of absolute alcohol causing not only huge financial loss to state revenue but also jeopardising safety of people and environment, the NGO had said in its contempt plea.
The NGT had in 2016 directed that no manufacturer will produce absolute alcohol without seeking appropriate permission from the Ministry of Commerce, Chief Controller Explosives and other authorities. PTI