A K Banerjee : Concor toxic goods on CBI radar

The RTT, in its September edition 2010, carried an article about the CBI investigating destruction of hazardous goods lying in the custody of Concor at ICD, Ballabgarh. A few years ago, the Supreme Court, in pursuance of the writ petition no 657 of 1995 (with SLP(C) no 16175/1997&C.A.No 7660/1997), had ordered that the hazardous wastes required adequate and proper control and handling. According to sources, the CBI, in September this year, examined 140 containers — 95 containers with solid waste and 45 with waste oil — lying at ICD, Ballabgarh, and drew samples to ascertain the content of containers.

Sources said a number of containers contained foreign material. Reports of tests, currently underway, will make it clear whether there was a conspiracy on the part of any agency to replace the hazardous goods in violation of the Supreme Court order. 

Earlier in July 2010, the CBI reportedly examined 25 containers at ICD, Ballabhgarh.

Sources have confirmed that the CBI has found irregularities in at least 5 to 7 containers.

It may be recalled that a total of 386 containers, according to Concor’s record, containing hazardous wastes — waste oil, solid waste and zinc ash — have been lying at ICD, Tughlakabad since several years. They were later shifted to Rewari and then to Ballabhgarh. They had to be destroyed as per the court order. Waste oil has already been destroyed in incinerators at M/s Bharat Oil Co. Ltd, Ghaziabad.

Following the Supreme Court order, Concor shifted 386 containers to Rewari. And out of those, it handed over 126 containers to importers after proper sampling reports showed that the toxic content were within the permissible limit as claimed by Concor.

The remaining 259 containers were shifted to ICD Ballabhgarh  Continued from page 1

(1damaged container is still at  Rewari).

A total of 119 containers with waste oil/furnace oil had since been destructed through incinerators at Ghaziabad under the supervision of junior officers of the Customs and Concor

There is also confusion regarding the total number of containers to be destroyed.

According to the Wadhawan committee report, the stock position of hazardous goods lying at ICD, Tughlakabad, is 427.

Thus, there is a discrepancy of 41 containers in respect of ICD, Tughlakabad Delhi. 

A certificate on the total number of containers meant for destruction should be obtained from the custodian. Also, it should be noted that Concor’s record shows only 386 containers for destruction.

A question arises that when the matter is of national importance and where direct orders of the Supreme Court has been given, then why is that no senior officer from the Custodian i.e. Concor has supervised the whole process. M Subbarao, Director (HSMD) & Member Secretary, Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, vide his letter dt 12/11/2008 addressed to Chief Manager, Concor. ICD Tughlakabad  in response to Concor’s earlier correspondence  CON/ICD/TKD/ HAZWASTE/2008Dt 20/10/2008,4/11/2008/and 11/11/2008, intimated Concor that it was required to strictly follow the directions given by the Supreme Court in its order dt 14/10/2003 in the writ petition (Civil)NO 657 of 1995 and Hazardous Waste Rules 2008.

He further stated that as per the analysis report submitted by Concor, the content of all the containers lying at ICD exceeds the prescribed limits for the purpose of recycling/reprocessing. Therefore, the content of the containers are required to be destructed/ incinerated in treatment and disposal  facility authorized by the concerned State Pollution Board in accordance with the above mentioned order of the Supreme Court under the supervision of the officials of CONCOR, Customs/ the concerned State Pollution Control Board.

Here, the important point to note is that the destruction process was carried put by junior officers of Concor and Customs, and no representative from the State Pollution Board was there to supervise the destruction process, sources said.

What was the reason behind non-adherence to Supreme Court guidelines? Has the custodian not violated the destruction process by not calling the state pollution board officers?

Attention should also be paid to Concor’s letter (no. CON/NR/ICD/TKD/LSWR/07 DT 2 /11/2007) regarding shifting of LSWR/oil containers from ICD, Rewari to ICD, Ballabhgarh by road addressed to terminal manager of Rewari ICD and in-charge, ICD, Ballabgarh, stating that necessary approval has been granted by CGM, NR for shifting of the containers of LSWR/Oil by road. 

It was further stated that the above movement will be under escort of the customs official, lCD, Tughlakabad, New Delhi.

Regarding the movement of the containers, a container-wise gate pass from ICD, Rewari to ICD, Ballabhgarh will  be issued by Terminal Manager, ICD, Rewari, mentioning the details of container number, size, seal number, etc. for onward matching and receiving of the same containers by the in-charge ICD Ballabgarh, stated the letter further.

It was further directed to intimate day-to-day containers movement with seal intact position by the in-charge, Concor, ICD /Ballabgarh and he will also intimate day to day position of the received containers to Concor ICD/TKD for cross-checking of the correct movement.

The letter was sent in 2007 and the officer concerned of Concor at Rewari and Ballabgarh had to check the size, seal and details of the containers.

In case now the CBI finds any discrepancy in respect of quantity of goods and the nature of goods, the needle of suspicion points towards the Custodian.

Another interesting aspect of the 2010 destruction process of the hazardous goods was that a junior officer was deputed by Concor for disposal work, sources said. The regular employee for the same was on leave during that period.

Further, there was no written order from Concor to its employees associated with the destruction of hazardous waste in this respect.

Besides, the said employee was also sent for computer training during that period for a week on verbal order. 

It needs to be probed by the CBI if it was a ploy but one thing is sure that the mastermind of the whole process cannot be a junior officer.  

Significantly, circular number 13/2009 Customs regarding  handling of cargo in customs area regulation 2009 wherein responsibilities prescribed in Regulation 6 apply to both categories of persons i.e. all Custodians and persons who provide various services as above. Certain responsibilities specifically apply to one of the category. 

For example,  the responsibility for safety and security, pilferage of goods under their custody, disposal of uncleared, unclaimed or abandoned goods within the prescribed time limit, payment of cost recovery charges of the customs officers posted in the facility are applicable to the persons who handle imported or export goods in the capacity of an approved custodian. 

One more interesting aspect of the episode is that Concor, while arranging for destruction in the presence of Customs, submitted the details, i.e. name of the shipping line /container no arrival date /size of the container/measuring quantity/location of the container/nature of goods/commodities. But the most important factor — the total weight of the containers i.e. gross weight/net weight —was not provided to the Customs.