Porus Lab Must Be Shut Down Permanently: HRF

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that the chemical plant Porus Laboratories Private Limited located in Akkireddigudem village in Musunuru mandal of Eluru district where a blast occurred on the night of 13/04/2022 that resulted in the gruesome death of 6 workers and grievous injuries to 12 workers be shut down permanently. We call for prosecution of management of the company and officials of regulatory bodies for criminal negligence. The government and the company should make immediate arrangements for sending back home, as per their request, 50 migrant workers from Bihar working in the plant.

Porus Laboratories operates a specialty chemical manufacturing plant in Akkireddigudem under the current management for the past 16 years. On 13/04/2022 at around 10:30 pm a reactor blast resulted in the death of 6 workers (4 of them from Bihar) and serious injuries to 12 workers (7 of them from Bihar). A two-member team of HRF visited the village on 16/04/2022 and spoke to villagers, families of victims, employees of the plant and ex-employees to ascertain facts. It appears that on the night of the incident when the reactors and chiller system were functioning there was power loss. A continuous supply of brine solution at (minus) 16 degrees from the chiller system to reactors is essential. When the power went off the workers tried to power the system using alternate power systems only to realize that the batteries needed to be exchanged. By the time it was done a reactor had heated up and flames ensued.

There was no distributed control and monitoring system in place to monitor the temperature and pressure round the clock. There were no alternate power systems in place on hand. There was neither automatic detection nor blockage systems in place whose presence might have averted the disaster. One can also surmise that turn around and inspection exercise that should be carried out periodically was absent. This is nothing but criminal negligence on the part of the management. Also on display was a callous attitude of the plant management in evacuating the injured and dead. The workers were left to fend for themselves.

This plant has been nothing but a pain and disaster for the villagers. It is alleged by many that the cavalier handling of toxic waste by the management is resulting in serious health issues, deaths and severe loss of agriculture and livestock in the area. They alleged that nothing has been done to change the situation, neither by the company nor by regulatory authorities. In fact, villagers are not even aware of what is being manufactured inside the plant.

The plant has trebled its production since 2019, and Environmental Clearance and Consent to Operate were granted to that effect. It is the duty of the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) and Department of Factories to regularly monitor the working conditions and safety of the plant. It appears that both were not fulfilling this duty. Why was such a toxic plant allowed to operate at all in the midst of densely populated villages.

The plight of migrant workers from Bihar requires special mention. A total of 60 were employed through a labour contractor. Most of them are Dalits, belonging to the ravidassia caste. Some of them have been working for a decade and still make meagre sums. With 4 of their colleagues’ dead and 7 others struggling for their lives, the remaining workers are desperately insecure. With very little money and in a distraught state, they want to return home. However, neither the company nor the government has made any arrangement towards that end.

HRF believes that mere payment of compensation is insufficient. This is not an isolated incident. The case of LG Polymers at Visakhapatnam is still fresh memory. The government must shut down the plant permanently and take steps to criminally prosecute the management and officials of regulatory bodies. A proper study must be conducted to ascertain the damage Porus has caused over the years, the people compensated duly with all expenses recovered from the company.

NN Srinivasa Rao
HRF State Executive Committee member

G Rohith
HRF AP State secretary


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