Breathless but not courtless.
Help the Indian victims of the abestos industry in their court case against Etex/Eternit
in Belgium.

Nirmala Gurung

Nirmala Gurung

« I’m not able to walk for a long time anymore. My breathing is not working well. Then I need to sit. To rest. For many years, I taught children, some of them lived just next to the factory. The school was surrounded by an asbestos waste dump. Their parents came to pick them just after work. My salary amounted to 12 000€ a month (less than 140€) for 24 days of work. I’ve been diagnosed with asbestosis, 20 % lung invalidity. I dared to speak up for my community and go to the United Nations in Geneva to speak about our story. This caused me a lot of trouble. But I’m gonna keep up with raising awareness around asbestos here, at the village level. I saw a lot of victims dying slowly, in a painful way. I hop the next generation will be saved. »

Retired machinist

Rama Shandra Sahanai

I started in 1983 as a casual labourer. I retired in 2018. My father worked for the factory and wasn’t aware of the danger. The children of the workers had a prority access to jobs in the factory. Over the time, I realized there were warning signs on the asbestos bags and in some areas of the factory. But I had no other choices than to work there. The management wasn’t interested in health and safety. We had medical check-ups but we never received the results. The workers who worked in the dustiest area of the factory, where asbestos was mixed with cement, received a mask. But given the heat, those masks were really really difficult to wear. 

54 years, retired in 2004 from the Eternit Everest factory in Kolkata

Sirajul Islam

I remember seing some foreigners from Belgium at the factory, in 1998. They never told us that handling asbestos was dangerous. At that time, there were no medical check-ups and very few security measures. I did not wear a mask, it was too hot inside. Over the time, I discovered this was dangerous. I voluntarily retired in 2004 because I wanted to use the money to send my daughter to high school. Here, you cannot have a loan when you’re a labourer. Our only choice is to work and turn a blind eye to the working conditions.

Retired worker (Kymore)

Ram Manohar Rad  

I became a permanent worker in 1984. I was an asbestos-cement sheet cutter. But in fact I’ve been working here since 1977. But I have no proof, no paper for those years so I won’t be able to get a compensation from Turner&Newall for these 8 years of exposure without contract. I left the factory in 2003, after Eternit stopped producing asbestos and sold the factory. I’ve been exposed to 26 years. I had to make 30 to 35 move to saw a sheet. We had to saw for such long times that our masks became wet due to the sweat. This was really uncomfortable. In this region, even walking make your mask wet. There was no way to protect us correctly from this dust.

Widow of a dead worker (71 years)

Jyotsna Rani Mitra 

I wasn’t aware of the dangers of asbestos. My husband worked for the company from 1961 go 1998. He worked in the pipeline, which transport the materials that are being transformed. He was exposed to the cement fibres. He came home every day with his clothes covered in dust. I had to clean it twice a day, so I was exposed too. That’s how I became sick. My son worked at the factory too. Beyon a mere helmet and security shoes, there was no protection measures.

Environmental victim

Anonymous wife of a worker

I travelled throughout India, from the west, to come here in Kymore and get a diagnosis in a medical camp. I’m an environmental victim. I have been exposed while my husband and his brother worked here. As nearly all the other women, I’ve been exposed to the asbestos fibres while washing the uniforms of my husband. My brother-in-law got a stomach disease because of asbestos. He died of ti. My husband was not aware of the healths hazards posed by asbestos. He never received security warnings from the owners of the factory.

Retired worker (60 years, Kolkata)

Shankar Das

I worked in the factory for 36 years, as an unqualified worker. I was in charge of stacking asbestos sheets. The asbestos manipulated in the open-air, without any protection. This has been modernized only recently, in 2004, after the departure of the Belgian company. I never realized it was dangerous to handle asbestos. I only realized it was when the medical camp was organized by lawyer Mukherjee and the local trade union. I was diagnosed postive. Now I have absestosis.

 

From 1989 to 2002, the Belgian company ETEX/Eternit owned 5 factories in India in Kymore (Madya Pradesh), Mulund (Bombay, until 1995), Nashik (Maharashtra, starting from 1995), Kolkata (West Bengal) and Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu). Since 2010, more than 1200 workers and ex-workers from these factories have been diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses, but many other victims have not been diagnosed yet.

In 2016, a Canadian team of environmental scientists confirmed very high level of chrisotile asbestos on a large wasteland currently inhabited by more than 4000 people around Kymore asbestos factory. The Indian subsidiary of ETEX/Eternit, Eternit Everest Limited, dumped asbestos waste there until 1996.

This waste poses a great risk for the people living in Kymore and the whole community, including the young children who play on this waste dump.

ETEX/Eternit and its old subsidiary, while being aware of the dangers, refused to take part to any discussion regarding their responsibility or the cleaning of the polluted lands.

This crowdfunding campaign aims at filing a legal action against ETEX/Eternit and its old subsidiary, in order to obtain compensation and corrective measures.

As you can sse in the documentary Breathless, asbestos companies such as ETEX/Eternit made profits while putting their workforce but also the neighbours of the companies at risk. After that, they were able to go bankrupt or sell their companies to foreign entities. Therefore, they could escape their responsibilities.

Today, the owners of the factor try to prevent their workers to go to the medical camps where they can get a proper diagnosis for asbestosis.

The victims of these bad practices don’t have any other choices than to unite together through a wordlwide solidarity network.

 

 

Following the deaths of his father and many others from his village, filmmaker Daniel Lambo sets off on a passionate quest to find the truth about the deadly asbestos industry. His search takes him to the largest asbestos waste dump in India and unveils a cold-blooded industry still endangering the lives of workers and consumers around the world.

To book a screening contact the film team here

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