On 10 April 1996 a sizable portion of the wall of a fly-ash disposal pond belonging to Hindalco Industries Ltd. collapsed at Renukoot town.
Approximately 22,500 tonnes of the ash and water sludge swept the valley area upto the Rihand river covering a distance of over a kilometre. Large number of people are feared killed in the accident. However, no reliable estimates exist regarding the loss to both life and property. Soon after, workers along with some Hindalco security guards pulled out three persons from the sludge. They were unconscious. Of them only two were brought to the hospital. The management while officially denying that any worker died in the accident, had paid Rs. 7,000 to one worker's widow for conducting the ' last rites' of her husband, and another Rs. 4,000 for 'repairing her hut'. She has also been appointed as '.ayah at the Hindalco hospital for a period of two months from May 1996. She has no idea of either her wages or the terms of her employment.
A PUDR team visited the site in the third week of May. Hindalco Industries has anything but an impressive record of safety standards. A caustic soda tank in the factory burst as recent as November 1995, claiming the lives of six workers. Increase of workload, negligence and a lack of concern for workers' safety are some of the factors that cause such accidents. Protests by workers have been countered by terminations and suspensions, the grounds often being very flimsy. As of now gate meetings are forbidden' and a police chowki is posted just outside the main entrance of the factory complex.
The Annual Report of Hindalco Industries for the year 1994-95 shows that it is one of the most successful and fast expanding company in the country. Accidents, terminations, and arbitrary terms of employment reveal the darker side to this success story. The present report attempts to describe this other side.