'Chilly' woes put Everest in a soup

The popular spice company, with its factory at LBS Marg in Vikhroli (W), was slapped a show cause notice by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, after residents complained that it was polluting the air, causing health hazards

Everest, the popular spice company, can deservedly stake claim to having added oodles of taste to otherwise insipid home-cooked fare. But digest this: for the past nine years, the national condiment giant has been giving over 5,000 hapless residents of Vikhroli bleary eyes and clogged airways. Not because of the extra kick it packs into its Kashmiri Mirch powder, but because of shoddy maintenance and unlawful operations at its factory at LBS Marg in Vikhroli (West), causing severe air pollution.

In bad taste: Residents near the company's LBS Marg factory claim that
they have been suffering from severe throat congestion and eye irritation
for years now, owing to the emissions issued continuously from the spice
factory. Pics/ Datta Kumbhar

Needless to say, the company has ended up leaving a bad taste in the mouth of the locals. After they turned up the heat on Everest, a long-drawn-out crusade to safeguard their health finally paid off, when the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) recently slapped a show cause notice on the company.  

Something in the air
Residents of localities like Ramnagar and Suryanagar -- situated in the vicinity of the company's LBS Marg factory -- claim that they have been suffering from severe throat congestion and eye irritation for years now, owing to the emissions issued continuously from the spice factory. Fed up, they even staged morchas outside the factory and the local police station, but claim that their cries of protest fell on deaf ears.

Daal mein kuchh kala?
A few months back, residents approached Sudhir Singh, general secretary of the Mumbai Pradesh division of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Singh then took up the cudgels on their behalf, and lodged complaints with several authorities, including the MPCB. MPCB sent officials to inspect the premises, but did not do anything to address the hazardous situation thereafter. A relentless Singh then took the RTI route to find out what their findings had been. Much to his surprise, the MPCB department stated in its response that no health hazards had been detected in the area, or within the factory premises. A copy of this response is available with

Unable to stomach the apathy, a doggedly perseverant Singh lodged another complaint in November, this time bringing the matter to the notice of the chief minister, deputy chief minister and environment minister. In his petition, he demanded that commensurate action be taken on the suspicion-arousing apathy of the MPCB officials.

"I was shocked to see the reply received from the MPCB. I immediately smelt something fishy, and surmised that someone had bribed the MPCB officials, who in turn extended a clean chit to the company. I decided to take them to task, and lodged several complaints against them," said Singh.

As a result of his unstinting efforts, MPCB officials made a second inspection of the factory premises on November 19. On November 21, they issued a show cause notice against the company, taking it to task over three major areas of concern. A copy of the notice has been obtained by MiD DAY.

What officials saw
The results of the inspection are revolting enough to make your generously-spiced food churn in your stomach. According to the notice, empty masala cans and plastic packets had been dumped on a cable wire duct located within the premises. Sanitation and cleanliness standards were also found to be below standard levels.

The metal-ducting grinder section of the factory was attached to a water tank, which was fitted with an activated carbon filter. The latter was found to be defunct, as a result of which particles of the processed condiments were continuously being emitted into the air, polluting it.

The firm has also been operating the processing unit in three shifts, without obtaining necessary permissions.

"Every day, I would treat at least two patients who were wheezing owing to the dust emanating from the spice factory. Even I have suffered breathing problems and allergies, owing to the spice particles suspended in the air," said Dr J J Maurya, a local physician.

"I have treated innumerable patients with cough, breathing problems and allergies. I have also treated the company's own workers, who suffered severe health problems owing to the hazardous conditions under which they work," said Dr Vipin Padgaonkar.


Janabai Nair (50)
We have been experiencing health problems like wheezing and breathing trouble for the last nine years. We approached the cops and the company's officials, but they did not lift a finger

Mohamaddunnisha Shaikh (65)
We experienced terrible discomfort, especially when we spent all day at home during weekends. Our child would fall sick frequently

Juber Khan (22)
I cannot study after 10 pm, when the factory's chicken masala unit starts processing the spice. I used to cough continuously, and my eyes watered all the time

The other side
"I am aware of the problems faced by the residents and the complaints lodged against the company. The MPCB officials visited the company and I am waiting for their report," said T J Laxman, general manager and spokesperson for Everest company.

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