Dread of a drug unit dogs this hamlet

Dread of a drug unit dogs this hamlet
Highlights

Several movements launched by various action groups ended like prolonged soap operas without a climax. What was once restricted to the outskirts of Hyderabad has now penetrated into rural areas, putting lives of our present and future generations in grave danger.

Shankarampet-R (Medak): When we talk about pollution, the first things which come to our minds are Patancheru, Pashamylaram, Jinnaram, Kazipally, IDA Bollaram, Gaddapotharam and other industrial areas which have been subjected to decades of unabated ecological destruction causing monumental loss of human lives.

Several movements launched by various action groups ended like prolonged soap operas without a climax. What was once restricted to the outskirts of Hyderabad has now penetrated into rural areas, putting lives of our present and future generations in grave danger.

It was previously believed that Medak district, after the districts’ reorganisation, has been spared from industrial pollution. Well, it is not. Presence of bulk drug companies in rural areas of Medak and their huge expansion at a time when the State government is contemplating moving all pharma companies to a location far away from human habitations seems to be confined to only news reports and political speeches.

Though there are hundreds of examples to present, a single case study to prove the point is the case of Chandampet village in Shankarmpet-R mandal, a village with a historical significance, which may meet the fate of Gaddapotharam village in Gummadidala mandal.

About ten years ago a bulk drug manufacturing company was set up in this village. According to locals, it was started by former Speaker Suresh Reddy, who sold it to another company, which again sold it to MSN Reddy of MSN Life Sciences Private Limited Unit-II, a couple of years ago.

It is still an unanswered question as to how a bulk drug manufacturing company was allowed to set up its plant close to three water bodies. The company stands right next to the feeder channel of these minor irrigation tanks which are all inter-connected.

Exact time when the tank which lies right in front of the unit was polluted is not known. But the waterbed turning red and the water visibly containing toxic chemicals show how the water body which was once the lifeline of the village has been reduced to a dead water body.

Surprisingly, taxpayers’ money was spent on Mission Kakatiya works in this Chitarsab kunta or Chittari Kunta. Except very little water in one of the pits dug, rest of the water body is bone-dry as of today.

“Water never stays in this kunta. Bhootalli (Mother Earth) drinks away water every time there is rain. The soil is too loose to hold water in this kunta. They should have laid a layer of silt instead of digging pits further,” commented a shepherd who was letting his goats drink from the polluted water in one of the pits.

“There was a time when the feeder channels had become quicksand of chemicals. That was before MSN had taken over the company. Right now they are not releasing effluents into the water,” said Narsimhulu Patel, whose lands lie very next to the company. Almost a month ago, due to the smell emanating from the company, some senior citizens in the village had fallen sick.

The villagers became agitated and damaged the company property. Cases were registered against six villagers for vandalising and trespassing. Dharnas and road blockades were held, but the issue has subsided now.

“We have installed technology to minimise pollution and also set up Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) within the premises which is not yet operational. As of now, we are sending all the effluents to ETP in Jeedimetla using tankers,” claimed Mohan Rao Kodali, Human Resources Manager of the company.

When this reporter asked him what the company had done for the community as part of their corporate social responsibility, he said the company had built two kalyana mandapas spending Rs 40 lakh and has been giving Rs 75,000 every year during the annual religious festivities to the gram panchayat. We could not immediately verify his claim that the company has employed 75 per cent of workforce locally.

It is also a fact that the company had tried to conduct a medical camp in the village a year ago, but the villagers had resisted their attempts, as they were against the very presence of the company in their village. The village neither has a clean drinking water plant, nor any book in the village library.

Except a primary health sub-centre where the doctor comes once in a blue moon according to the villagers, only one private RMP is there to treat the entire village population. “It has been eight years since I have been working here, but no management has done anything to improve the infrastructure in our school,” said Dayasagar Reddy, teacher in the Government High school in Chandampet.

The company under the new ownership has been aggressively acquiring land in the village and constructing huge structures by expanding its premises. Many of the villagers have sold away their lands to the company which has now built a boundary wall.

Villagers feel that even though the State government is planning to shift all the pharma companies, it is highly unlikely that after investing hundreds of crores in the plant, the company would be willing to relocate.

By Vivek Bhoomi

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