Times of India – Strike in Alang to protest arrest of ship-breakers

(Written by Vijaysinh Parmar)

12 October 2012 - BHAVNAGAR: Asia’s biggest ship-breaking yard in Alang came to a standstill on Friday as ship-breakers went on strike. They were protesting against the arrest of three ship-breakers in the case pertaining to death of six persons during dismantling of an oil tanker last Saturday. Those arrested included the owners of Kiran Ship Breaking Company Ram Krishna Jain and Vipin Jain along with the manager Rajesh Jugud. They have been booked for culpable homicide and negligent conduct with respect to fire. Hours after their arrest, the owners complained of chest pain and were admitted to a hospital in Bhavnagar.

Sources said this is for the first time that ship-breakers have been booked and arrested under these charges. If convicted, they can face a minimum of three years jail term and a maximum life imprisonment.

Following the arrests on Thursday night, the ship-breakers observed a shut down on a call given by Ship Recycling Industries’ Association (India) and its allied organizations. The ship-breakers took out a protest rally in Bhavnagar and submitted a memorandum to superintendent of police Maninder Singh Pawar.

Sources said different agencies probing the incident have found negligence on part of the company. Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) has sealed the plot till its investigation continues. “All the concerned agencies like Forensic Science laboratory (FSL), fire department and GMB among others have found that rules were not being followed while dismantling the oil tanker,” a police official said.

The representatives of ship-breakers argued that in the past, even in bigger accidents, no criminal cases had been filed. They demanded that the complaint in this case be quashed. “Owners may be unaware of the day-to-day work at ship recycling yard and can’t be held responsible for accidents. Our demand is withdrawal of charges of culpable homicide against them,” president of Ship Recycling Industries’ Association (India) V K Gupta said.

The police on the other hand are mulling opening of similar old cases in which many labourers have lost their lives. “We will file an application before the home department for re-opening these cases,” a senior police official said.