Apr 14, 2006
Lessons from Daurala
IIT-Roorkee’s study damned the DCM Group at Daurala. They found significant amount of lead, aluminium, nickel and even cyanide in the water sources in the vicinity of the factories. This time, Rana chose not to confront the polluter with the findings. He ignored them and let loose Janhit staffers and volunteers to survey the health profile of the village.
Surveyors stomped the village and collected data on every household and its health issues. Close to 15,000 people were surveyed and of them a fourth had health complaints. Between 2000 and 05, 54 had died of cancer. The village’s outgo for medical reasons was close to Rs.10 lacs a month. At the time of the survey, there were 14 cancer patients, 1,007 with epidermal ailments, 89 with neurological disorders, 77 with cardiac problems and about 1,000 suffered from asthma, high blood pressure and arthritis. The survey data was so thoroughly compiled that DCM had no deniability room. Even then Rana did not confront them directly.
Instead, he raised the decibel level with a booklet entitled, ‘Daurala: Hell on Earth’. It was loaded with facts and contained a list of demands. Janhit sent out 1,000 mails, contacted every member of parliament, petitioned the Supreme Court’s Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Waste Management [- did you know such a thing existed?], and sought the press.
A few of the politicians - that much reviled tribe- rallied in support. The Blacksmith Institute went online with a credible statement on Daurala. The National Human Rights Commission took suo moto notice of a press report on Daurala and directed the UP government to respond on the matter. The office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India wrote asking for a copy of ‘Hell on earth’. After 70 years of disdaining all authority, in just a year after the Janhit campaign began, DCM felt the heat.
DCM sought a meeting with the people of Daurala. At the meeting in September 2005, there were 40 people present including two directors from Delhi and two local general managers. The demands made were the same as before.
Six months down the line Rana declares himself reasonably satisfied with the company’s response. Many of the demands have been met and there is evidence, he says, the company is sincere regarding others. A three member citizen committee has been formed to liaise and monitor compliance. He says Janhit will carry out fresh testing after a year to verify improvement.
Success at Daurala has woken up other activists in western UP. Rana himself has turned to mapping Hindon River’s degeneration. Many have hailed the Daurala Model. Well, what is it? Simply put, it amounts these invariables: mobilise people, have facts verified credibly, don’t exaggerate or threaten, marshall all non-governmental support and ignore local level collusions.
Yet another observation is difficult to resist. Globalisation may be inevitable and often evil. For example, DCM group companies and many others in India are contract manufacturers of chemicals considered too hazardous for the West. But the Internet, satellite TV and Blacksmith Institute are also products of globalisation. It is early days still and so advantages of capital seem to lie with the powerful. But the costs of fighting them are also coming down. Capital did flow to Janhit from New York. The focus in the globalisation-debate may have to turn from rants, to disseminating the means to fight dominance and oppression.
Anil Rana, Janhit Foundation
D-80 Shastri Nagar,
Meerut -250002, UP
Phones: 2763418, 2602753, 0-9412706850 [Mobile]