Carcinogenic Dye Found in Footwear Distributed by the MP Government, Tribals Protest
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The report of the presence of a carcinogenic chemical – azo dye – in the inner sole of the shoes and slippers distributed to tendu patta collectors by Madhya Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government under Charan Paduka Yojana has irked the tribal community of the state.
Members of Jai Adivasi Yuva Sangathan, (a political party of tribals) on Wednesday not only collected the toxic shoes and slippers distributed by the state government, but also gave the new ones. They held protests in various tribal populated areas with shoes and slippers, and demanded resignation of Chief Ministry Shivraj Singh Chouhan for playing with the lives of tribals.
Chief of the Jai Adivasi Yuva Sangathan, Heera Lal Alawa, said, “It shows how much the state government is serious about the Adivasi community. They are planning to eradicate them by distributing shoes and slippers having azo dye chemical which causes cancer.”
He also claimed that several tendu patta collectors have complained of health issues, which might be the symptoms of cancer.
CM Chouhan had launched free footwear scheme ‘Charan Paduka Yojana’ with much fanfare for tendu leaf farmers on April 19, 2018. Under this scheme, the MP Government had decided to provide shoes for males and sarees and footwear for the females from the community. According to the scheme, the government was to distribute shoes and slippers to 21.35 lakh tendu patta collectors (mostly tribals) with a cost of Rs 207 crore. Till then, the state government had distributed 8.14 lakh shoes and 10.2 lakh slippers.
Weeks after the launch by Chouhan, the distribution of shoes and slippers had begun, and some samples were sent to the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) for mandatory testing on June 11. The shoes and slippers were sent for testing after the distribution had begun. The CLRI, an institute that works under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), noted in its report dated June 27 that “except azo content” in the insole of “gents’ casual canvas walking shoes”, everything was alright with the samples.
However, the report of CLRI claiming that the shoes used "carcinogenic" azo dye in the inner sole, which causes cancer-like diseases, burst the balloon of state government’s progressive scheme in the state, which is going to the polls in November this year. After the report, the state government has suspended the distribution of the footwear.
Azo dye is a large class of synthetic dyes whose molecules contain two adjacent nitrogen atoms between carbon atoms which can cause cancer-like diseases. The toxic chemical was banned by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest on June 23, 1997 after prolong ad hocism.
Admitting it, Forest Minister Gaurishankar Shejwar said that 2 lakh shoes were rejected for containing excess azo dye, and another 33,000 for lack of quality. The shoes and slippers were purchased through Madhya Pradesh Laghu Udyog Nigam by following the due tender process.
He said the M.P. State Minor Forest Produce Federation had set a target of distributing shoes to 11.23 lakh men, 11.11 lakh slippers to women and 22.35 lakh water bottles. So far, 8.14 lakh shoes and 10.2 lakh slippers have been distributed.
The minister claimed that the footwear distributed to beneficiaries did not contain any harmful chemicals because they had been tested prior to the distribution by the Footwear Design and Development Institute, Noida, and CLRI, Chennai.
“A pre-delivery test is also conducted by one institution. He said the company was not paid for the rejected shoes. It has been asked to replace the inner sole and the shoes will be distributed only after they are examined by the central institute,” he claimed.
The issue has triggered a major controversy in the state. The Congress accused the BJP government of playing with the lives of tribals by exposing them to carcinogenic substances, and threatened to lodge a complaint against the government. Demanding a high-level probe, former union minister and PCC chief Kamal Nath said that the government should recall all footwear from beneficiaries. “The government should come clean on the details of the tender process and make public the names of companies that participated and won the bid. The probe report should focus on how many beneficiaries got the footwear and whether the company has been blacklisted.”
Going a step further, an emerging political party in the state, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) held a protest, and gave a memorandum to the director general demanding arrest of the CM under section 299 (culpable homicide), 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code and SC/ST Atrocities Act.
“We demand immediate arrest of CM under section 299 and 307 of IPC and SC/ST atrocities act. Moreover, state government take back all distributed shoes and slippers and conduct medical examination of all the beneficiaries,” said state AAP convener Alok Agrawal.
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