After radioactive material was sold as scrap by the Delhi University, leading to the death of a labourer, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal on Friday directed the University Grant Commission to frame guidelines immediately on the procurement, use and disposal of hazardous substances by varsities.
In a letter to the UGC, the HRD ministry said the guidelines should stipulate the methods for procurement, handling, storage and disposal of such material which could be fatal. UGC Chairman Professor Sukhadeo Thorat also met Sibal and discussed the issue. At present, universities get the radioactive material for their laboratories with the permission of regulating agencies.
The Department of Atomic Energy has framed certain guidelines which are supposed to be followed by the universities for procurement and handling of such material. However, the UGC does not have any policy to this effect.
"The UGC will prepare the guidelines and issue a direction to all universities to follow the guidelines," a ministry official said.
Sibal will also consult other ministers for a comprehensive policy on handling of hazardous materials by the research agencies under the respective ministries. Exposure to the radioactive material has led to the death of a scrap shop worker in west Delhi. A few others, including the shop owner, are undergoing treatment after they were exposed to the same material earlier in April.
The source of material was traced to the chemistry department of Delhi University. The Cobalt-60 was imported by the varsity in 1968 from Canada. The material was lying in a room for 25 years and the chemistry department wanted to sell it off.
Eleven sources of radiation were detected in the Mayapuri scrap market where Cobalt-60 was recovered. It is a radioactive isotope of cobalt, which is a hard, lustrous, grey metal and is used in cancer therapy machines and other medical equipment.
Delhi University Vice Chancellor Deepak Pental has expressed apology for the lapses.