New Delhi: Cutting across party lines, majority of Rajya Sabha members on Monday supported the Recycling of Ships Bill, but sought better safeguards for workers and environment protection in the new law itself or its rules.
The bill, which has already been passed by Lok Sabha, seeks to regulate recycling of ships in accordance with international standards.
Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya moved the bill in the Upper House for consideration.
The minister said that India’s 7,500km-long coastline provides natural opportunity for boosting ship recycling business in the country. He said that the segment meets over 10 per cent of the country’s steel demand and saves natural resources like iron ore and coal.
Mandaviya told the House that the bill will provide for protection of environment and safety of workers in the country.
He said the bill will adhere to the Hong Kong convention (on ship recycling) and will help the country get more ships for recycling. The minister also told the House that major nations like the US are competitors in this business.He said that the bill provides safeguards to ensure that hazardous material and chemicals do not cause problems.
He also told the House that the segment provides direct and indirect employment to 2 lakh to 2.5 lakh people.
India is a global leader with 30 per cent market.
Mandaviya, who holds the independent charge of the shipping ministry, said the bill’s provisions are in line with the Hong Kong Convention that lays out a framework for the ship recycling business, which has huge environmental and safety dimensions.
Out of around 1,000 merchant ships which are broken every year, 300 are brought in India, he said, noting that Gujarat has the dominant share in the country.
While supporting the bill, Congress member Amee Yajnik said that the Hong Kong Convention is “quite weak” on labour safety and environment protection.
She said that the her suggestions in this regard should be either included in the bill or in the rules under it to provide better safeguards to workers and to protect environment.
She suggested the need for waste trade law and said there should be provision for treating the waste coming out of ships.
She spoke about the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and Their Disposal, also known as the Basel Convention.
The convention was adopted in 1989 and came into force in 1992. She told the House that India is a signatory to the Basel Convention.
She said ships are generally sold and resold to change ownership and base country to facilitate their breaking at certain ports.
She demanded that workers in the industry should be categorised as a separate class of labour and ship waste treatment norms should be there.
Associating with the concerns raised by Yajnik, TMC member S S Ray said that the ship-breaking code does not provide for adequate penalties for contravention of certain provisions.
He said penalties of Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh for ship building companies are very meagre and should be increased to Rs 25 lakh to 30 lakh.
He said the bill proposes to form a National Authority for the segment but there is no provision for any environmentalist on its board and it should be included.
The bill provides that the National Authority will carry out periodic surveys to verify the prescribed requirements.
The Authority will be notified by the central government to administer, supervise and monitor all activities related to ship recycling.
The bill also provides that the owner of every new ship must make an application to the National Authority to obtain a certificate on the inventory of hazardous materials. It also states that existing ship owners must apply for the certificate within five years of the commencement of the Act.
Ray said that the five-year time frame is too long and it should be one year from the commencement of the Act. The bill also provides that the authority can suspend or cancel ship recycling by a firm without giving any notice.
He demanded that this is arbitrary and firms should be heard before taking such action.
Echoing similar views, AIADMK member Vijila Sathananth said that working conditions of the workers should be improved.
Supporting the bill, Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) suggested that the bill should also have provisions for minimum wages and health facilities for workers.
Prasanna Achyara of BJD cautioned that India should not become a dumping ground for hazardous waste.
Banda Prakash of TRS said that in India ship breaking is done through beaching method while it should be done in a dry dock as in developed nations.
Participated in the debate, R C P Singh (JDU), K Somprasad (CPM), M Shanmugam (DMK), Vinoy Viswam (CPI) and Mahant Shambhuprasadji Tundiya (BJP) also supported the bill.