The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) issued a closure notice to Anupam Rasayan, collecting Rs 1 crore as interim environmental damage compensation after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) took suo motu proceedings based on news reports on the death of five labourers in a fire following a blast in the unit in Sachin GIDC, Surat, on September 10.
Anupam Rasayan is one of the two corporate entities that had paid for Remdesivir injections for Covid-19 that were distributed at the Surat BJP office by BJP state chief CR Paatil.
The police, however, has not yet registered an offence in the blast that had injured 20 others of which three are still undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Surat. A case of accidental death has been registered with police claiming that the structure was now “too risky” for forensic experts to take samples.
The GPCB on September 21 submitted its action taken report in relation to the suo motu proceedings by the NGT principal bench. The report states that GPCB has “issued closure direction” to the unit under provisions of the Air Act, 1981, with “immediate effect” and imposed Rs 1 crore as interim environmental damage compensation (EDC).
Power supply of the unit was disconnected by the Dakshin Gujarat Vij Company Ltd (DGVCL) on September 19 and the water supply to the unit was disconnected on September 17 by GIDC, Sachin. According to GPCB, the EDC was paid by the unit on September 17.
Inspector DV Baldaniya of Sachin GIDC police station told The Indian Express, “We have taken statements of some of the injured ones and those were unhurt… We have cordoned off the premises as the structure has become risky. Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) officials are yet to collect samples from the site.”
Police are working on a structural stability report for the site, he added.
Surat FSL deputy director B Patel said, “Our teams went twice to collect samples but it was risky to enter the premises. We have sought a structural stability certificate from the police.”
GPCB Surat unit head MR Macwana wrote to the unit on September 16, noting that three days’ notice was provided to the unit at the time of inspection on September 11 and that the unit “failed to submit compliance”, compelling GPCB to issue the closure notice.
The closure notice also notes that the unit has to submit a safety audit report and comply with the Director Industrial Safety and Health (DISH) direction and submit a report. Failure to comply with the directions would result in prosecution under Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.
According to the GPCB report, production of chemical 2, 4-difluoronitrobenzene and distillation of solvent sulfolane were going on in the plant, when the blast occurred “due to unknown reasons”.
After the fire incident on September 10, only one body — that of Ankur Patel (35), a resident of Sachin area — was found. Some were missing and 20 labourers were injured and hospitalised.
The next day, while carrying out cooling of the plant, fire officials found three bodies of labourers Rakesh Chaudhary (31), Prabhat Jha (23) and Sanjay Sinhora (28), all residents of Pandesara. One more labourer Jayraj Singh Thakor (25), a resident of Pandesara, died while undergoing treatment on September 16.
In an affidavit in response to a public interest litigation before the Gujarat High Court in on June 14, 2021, Harsh Sanghavi, now Minister of State for Home, stated that of the total 2,506 injections that the BJP got over four days, two firms — Anupam Rasayan, a chemical manufacturing firm with units in Surat and Bharuch, and Shott Amusement, a chain of family entertainment centres with presence in Ahmedabad and Surat — paid Rs 9.7 lakh for 1,500 injections by bank transfers.
The PIL was filed by former Congress Legislature Party leader Paresh Dhanani, seeking the court’s intervention against the “illegal and unauthorised distribution of Remdesivir injection” from the BJP’s office in Surat in April 2021 amid the second wave of Covid-19.
Anupam Rasayan, which is involved in the manufacturing of specialty chemicals catering to sectors such as agrochemicals, personal care and pharmaceuticals, with six manufacturing sites in Gujarat —four in Sachin GIDC and two in GIDC Jhagadia, Bharuch — has Indian-American cardiologist Dr Kiran C Patel as chairman in its board of directors.
Anupam Rasayan company manager Thomas Braganza said, “The compensation to be given to the families of each of deceased labourers is Rs 50 lakh.”
On May 18, in a similar fire that broke out following a reactor blast in Bharat Rasayan in Dahej of Bharuch district, eight persons, including a production manager, died and 20 were injured. In that case also, police has not registered an FIR.
Bharuch District Superintendent of Police Dr Leena Patil said, “We are waiting for DISH (District Industrial Safety Health) and FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) report. Once the report is in, we will get to know the reason behind the fire.”