Dera Bassi tragedy: Living in hell-like conditions for 2 decades, say Behra villagers
As per the villagers, they had raised the issue multiple times with the authorities, but nothing was done and the factory was allowed to operate and violate rules with impunity
Two days after the death of four workers at a meat processing unit in Dera Bassi, residents of Behra village have claimed that they have been living in hell-like conditions for over two decades due to emission of gases from the plant.
They said the tragic incident has brought their plight to the fore and prompted the government to take action.
As per the villagers, they had raised the issue multiple times with the authorities, but nothing was done and the factory was allowed to operate and violate rules with impunity.
Behra sarpanch Satnam Singh said the foul smell emanating from the factory had not only led to health problems among the elderly and children, but also resulted in the rejection of wedding proposals foryoung men and women from the village.
Another villager, who didn’t wish to be named, said that Behra was notorious for its foul smell, which was why people were reluctant to get married and settle in the area.
He claimed that he had to relocate to Dera Bassi to get married and promise hiswife that he would sell the property and leave the village after marriage.
Avtar Singh, a resident of the village, said the factory operated the animal bone grinder during night hours, which made it impossible to stay outside.
“We have to close doors and windows in order to sleep. For over two decades, we have been living under miserable conditions, but no one has come forward to address our plight,” he added.
According to Paramjit Singh, the emission of gases from the factory units was adversely affecting the health of residents, while the discharge of untreated water had also led to groundwater pollution in the area.
Many senior citizens and children were suffering from health issues, as violations were not being checked, Paramjit said and other villagers agreed.
Behra sarpanch said the factory had only added to the woes of the villagers and not helped in generating jobs for the local youth.
He said nearly 1,500 workers, mainly from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Nepal, were employed at the processing unit, and only a few locals had been given desk jobs.
The village head further said since most of the workforce consisted of migrant labourers, accidents or other such instances often went unreported.
“Recently, teachers and students from a renowned engineering institute also visited my house to discuss the situation,” he added. Abhinav Sharma, the human resource manager of the institute, admitted to having discussed the issue of gas emissions with sarpanches of Behra and nearby villages to find a solution to the problem.
Meanwhile, Dera Bassi ASP Darpan Ahluwalia said a hunt was on to nab the three members of the factory management who had been booked following the septic tank tragedy on Friday.
In July 2018, the then Punjab environment minister, OP Soni, had found loopholes in the functioning of the effluent treatment plant (ETP) of Federal Agro Private Ltd that runs the meat processing plant and asked the owner to comply with the norms within 10 days, failing which action would be taken against them. However, locals claim nothing had changed.