The Kerala government will soon come out with a fresh policy on quarrying keeping in view indiscrete exploitation of the State’s precious natural resources and recurring accidents in quarries.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Industries Minister P. K. Kunhalikkutty told the State Assembly on Monday that the government was ready to place the fresh policy proposals before an all-party meeting before finalising it. The government was fully aware of the need to preserve the natural resources even as the State met the construction industry’s requirement for sand and granite, they said.
The Chief Minister also announced an ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 5 lakh to the family members of each of the four persons killed in the wall collapse at Oorakam on Saturday evening. The assistance would be handed over to the victims’ families at the earliest, but the government was painfully aware that it could not save the life the fourth person, Pappachan, who remained caught under the concrete slabs for 10 hours before he breathed his last, Mr. Chandy said. The government would ask the Fire and Rescue Services Department to see if it could procure more equipment for more effective rescue efforts under similar circumstances.
The issue was raised in the House through an adjournment motion notice by K. T. Jaleel (Ind) who pointed out that several quarries functioned across the State without proper clearance from the government. These functioned with the knowledge of the officials of the geology and mining departments. The government should go in for a State-level amendment of the Workmen’s Compensation Act to provide better insurance cover for the workers in quarries and give an assistance of at least Rs. 10 lakhs to the kin of each of the victims, he said.
He was supported by C. Moyinkutty (IUML), from whose constituency all the three workers hailed, and, later, by Leader of the Opposition V. S. Achuthanandan, who offered all support to the government’s efforts to prevent recurrence of such incidents. Describing the tragedy as most painful, the Opposition leader asked the government to show its sincerity in preserving the State’s natural resources by going in for a fresh policy on the issue at the earliest.
When Speaker G. Karthikeyan pointed out that “we are the ones really responsible” for the tragedy, the Industries Minister concurred with him, but at the same time pointed out that the Industries Department had not given clearance for the crusher unit. The State, he said, was caught in a difficult situation where it had to meet the requirements of the construction industry, but would invite disaster if it did so at the current pace. The Industries Department would come up with the draft of a fresh policy on the issue which could be placed before an all-party meeting to be convened by the Chief Minister, Mr. Kunhalikkutty said.