Thousands of brick kiln workers in the state can now heave a sigh of relief. On Monday, the state government ushered in vital changes in the existing norms so as to allow brick kilns in Bengal to continue their normal functioning. As a result, workers in brick kilns will not be at risk of losing their jobs.
New norms have also been formed to set up a new brick kiln in the state.
The changes were passed at the cabinet meeting in Nabanna Monday afternoon and matters related to brick kilns from now onward will be looked after by the Directorate of Mines and Minerals under the Commerce and Industries department. It was earlier under the state Irrigation department.
A new group of ministers comprising state Environment minister Sovan Chatterjee, state Finance minister Amit Mitra, state Irrigation minister Rajib Banerjee and state Agriculture minister Purnendu Basu.
They would look after the proper implementation of the newly formed norms.
Explaining the changes, a senior state government official said the regulations were brought into force to reduce environmental hazards caused by brick kilns following a judgement by the Supreme Court around two years ago.
As per the previous norm, no brick kiln was supposed to be situated within 100m of rivers, schools, colleges, hospitals, mangroves, highways and railway tracks. There are currently more than 1,000 kilns in the state.
However, 400-450 kilns would have to be closed if the government strictly implemented those regulations. Moreover, several local people work in kilns, in addition to migrant labourers from other states.
The state government on Monday decided to reduce the distance of existing kilns from the aforementioned structures to 50m.
However, new brick kilns will have to abide by the 100m rule. At the same time, new kilns must not come up on agricultural land and must keep in mind that top soil in the surroundings does not get affected for setting up the kiln. Authorities of the kiln also have to plant trees all around their unit.
Earlier, a person willing to set up a brick kiln had to fill up nine different forms and run from pillar to post to get necessary clearances.
Now, a single window system has been introduced to eliminate difficulties in getting a clearance.
A committee will be formed comprising officials from concerned departments in every district to look into the applications.
The committee will give reports to the Environment department to issue the necessary clearance.