Published On : Fri, Jun 19th, 2015

Nagpur Today Exclusive: 25 workers get sick on Haldiram campus

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Nagpur: In another major scam which has come to fore, a leading food-products manufacturer, named Haldiram Foods International Private Limited, Unit Kasana situated at 20 KM Stone, Village Gumthala, Bhandara Road, which is getting a new factory premises constructed, had employed labourers from Madhya Pradesh.

Suddenly these labourers started displaying symptoms of food-poisoning from June 16, 2015. Many of them were vomiting and having loose motions leading to weakness. When the condition deteriorated on June 18, 2015, these labourers were rushed to Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in the night. 21 labourers were brought from Haldiram’s Bhandara Road factory premises to Nagpur GMCH. While 15 were admitted, 6 labourers were given medicines and sent back. Another 10 patients arrived on June 19, 2015 from Haldiram’s factory premises.

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When Nagpur Today spoke to the Dean, GMCH, Dr Abhimanyu Niswade he said that around 15 people were admitted to GMCH with severe symptoms of food poisoning. He opined that vomiting and loose-motions which these labourers were suffering from are typical symptoms of food poisoning. He claimed that they GMCH has immediately started their treatment at Ward No 38 (Isolation Ward near TB Ward).

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When Nagpur Today spoke to the workers/ labourers admitted in Ward No 38 of GMCH, the workers on condition of anonymity said that they have been drinking the water from this source for the past 6 months. However, this water had become contaminated from the time it started raining.

One of the labourers (Mason Raj Mistry in local parlance) claimed that the water was smelling bad and was discoloured too. He had complained to the contractor about the foul-smelling water. The contractor had complained to the authorties who had somehow assured to get the water tank cleaned.

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Another labourer claimed that even women and children too drank water but from other source. Since the women and children were getting drinking water from some other source too, they escaped the problem of food poisoning.

Another worker said that the company officials do not bother about their safety or their welfare. They are interested in getting their work done at the earliest.

One more labourer admitted in another room claimed that since June 18, 2015, the doctors had started administering tablets and medicine which has helped in reducing the effect of food poisoning among other labourers or workers.

On the night of June 18, 2015, about 30 workers who claimed to be “with Haldiram factory” went to a local Doctor, near their factory premises in Gumthala on Bhandara Road complaining of acute ill health. Seeing their condition, the Doctor advised that they should immediately rush to GMC since their symptoms could not be treated at a dispensary/ Private Chambers of a Doctor.

These workers were admitted and administered emergency treatment. Some of them were released this morning while some are still undergoing treatment.

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When Nagpur Today first tried to get the version of Haldiram officers, we were told that nothing of the sort had happened and they had no information of anything of this kind happening at any of their other plants spread all over Nagpur either. But the local Physician (who does not want to be named) stood firmly by his/her news.

When our Senior Correspondent Samuel Gunasekharan went to GMC personally and verified the news with none other than the Dean, it was confirmed that such workers had indeed been admitted and some were still being treated.

Monitoring the developments, our Associate Editor observes as follows:

By the time this transpired, a flustered Haldiram official did get back to the undersigned with the information that the persons who were taken sick were actually ‘Construction workers’ working on site behind their cold storage units, quite far from their manufacturing units. It was claimed that they belonged to a Labour Contractor and were not being paid by Haldiram directly.

It was also suggested that they had consumed some eggs for dinner and that this was the probable cause of the food poisoning.

They also confirmed that these ‘casual workers’ were living in hutments they had constructed near the construction site and were consuming water from any source available to them. Once monsoons began, the water was also muddied and became unpotable.

The Rs. 2000+ crores Company claims that they are very cautious of the health of their permanent workers who work inside their food and dairy units. The water they consume is checked daily for hardness, microbial count etc. The water quality  is separately monitored by  specific ISO 10500 specifications. They also follow standards of FSSI and NABL who routinely check their water quality. (Since apart from drinking water for employees, even executives, this water goes into their cooking also). There are a number of RO units to purify water consumed.

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If this is a fact NT wonders why these hapless Construction workers, who were building a new factory for Haldiram were not supplied clean water at least for drinking purpose?

Actually, on the premises of the large and multiple Haldiram units there is a large canteen also that serves all 3 meals to the workers on a daily basis. Why should the workers from Chhatisgarh not have been privy to this canteen also? Is it not an Indian tradition and part of our age old culture to look after ‘guests’ and also those who serve us? These affected people were both – guests of another state and ‘creating’ a new edifice for a Company that could well afford to look after them.

Nagpur Today takes this opportunity to point out the miseries of Construction Workers everywhere working on sites that are sold for thousands of Rupees per square feet once ready. But the well being, even safety of these human beings is not the concern of any ’employer’ direct or indirect. It is time this aspect was looked at seriously by the Government and laws and rules brought into force for them too. They “create” the Nation after all – they are the real builders. The nation collectively owes it to them.

By Sunita Mudaliar and Samuel Gunasekharan