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On 25th Anniversary, Bhopal Gas Tragedy Survivors resolve to carry on fight for justice

Friday, December 04, 2009 08:25:22 AM, Pervez Bari

Bhopal Gas Tragedy:

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Candle-light vigil mark 25th Anniversary of Bhopal Gas Tragedy

Bhopal: For the 25th year-in a-row the thousands of survivors of the Bhopal gas Tragedy, the world’s worst industrial disaster, helped by the NGOs working for their welfare, on Thursday came out on the roads to mourn the death of their near and dear ones and express their deep anguish against the American Union Carbide pesticide factory from where poisonous gas Methyl Isocyanate, (MIC), spewed in the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 when 3,500 people perished within hours. About eight thousands died in first three days.


Ever since then the badly affected victims of Bhopal, the capital of central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, have been succumbing at regular intervals and the death toll is believed to have reached about 35,000 mark. The languishing victims, having been ditched by the successive Madhya Pradesh Governments and the Federal Governments, came out to tell the world at large their prolonged agony with no end in sight.


An all-faith prayer meet presided over by the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was held in memory of the victims at the Barkatullah Bhawan to mark the 25th anniversary of the catastrophe.


Public meetings, processions and rallies taken out by half a dozen NGOs working for the welfare of the survivors of the gas disaster were marked with burning effigies of Union Carbide Corporation the then chairman Warren Anderson, its new owner Dow Chemicals.  The various processions passed through various localities of old Bhopal and culminated opposite Union Carbide plant and one rally finished at Chhola cremation ground where Anderson's and Dow Chemicals effigies were put to fire and a pledge was taken to carry on the fight for justice.


An NGO Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udhyog Sangathan, (BGPMUS), prepared clay portraits of Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan depicting them as asses while Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, and Madhya Pradesh Minister for Gas Relief Babulal Gaur as dogs to express their ire against them for supporting Dow Chemicals which has refused to take up the responsibilities of Union Carbide’s failure to pay proper compensation and clean up the factory site of toxic materials. 


However, with the passage of two and a half decades, the tragedy seems to have been forgotten by the common man here while the survivors struggle to live on somehow. Bhopal, now a city of about two million, hummed with activities as usual with no signs of remorse for the dead while a handful of NGOs, struggling over the years, tried to pump up the sagging spirits of the survivors not to give up but continue to strive for justice.


Abdul Jabbar, convener of BGPMUS, talking to Arab News, lamented the neglect of the gas victims by the successive governments, both state and federal, over the years and trying to bail out Dow Chemical Company which now owns the Union Carbide. He termed the government and the politicians nothing but "coffin thieves", who have "snatched money from the dying people".


Meanwhile, another rally was taken out jointly by the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (BGPMSKS), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha (BGPMPSM) and International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, (ICJB).


Children from the newly formed "Children against Dow-Carbide", people from pollution impacted communities from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and international supporters from China, England, France, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, Scotland, Switzerland, Thailand and the US also participated in the rally.


An interesting tableau wherein clay statues of a Burqa clad Muslim woman and a Hindu woman with brooms in their hands along with their men-folk overpowering an effigy of Dow Chemical was prepared by ICJB. The women's statues were garlanded by the campaigners and then Dow Chemical effigy was burnt amidst slogan-shouting by survivors.


International supporters of the campaign such as author Padma Bhushan Dominique Lapierre from France and Ward Morehouse and Barry Castleman from the US were honored at the public meeting later.


Commenting on the gas tragedy Satinath Sarangi. convenor of ICJB, said that in the last 25 years a new generation of Bhopal survivors has come up that, suffers from congenital growth and development disorders, birth defects. And, on top of that, we have 30,000 people living around the factory are being forced to drink contaminated water for the last 14-18 years, he added.


"There are at least 100,000 people who are still battling chronic diseases caused by gas exposure."


The site is still not completely cleared and Dow Chemical has so far refused to pay compensation or help clean up the area. The Indian government has lodged a legal claim for 15 million Euros as an advance for the work and the case has prevented Dow investing in the country.


"We hope that it won't be too long before Dow accepts this liability and cleans up the toxic waste in Bhopal," Sarangi said.


Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Chouhan has said that the efforts for mitigating the sufferings of Bhopal gas victims will continue. The wounds of the gas tragedy that occurred in 1984 are still fresh. The memories of this heart-rending incident create shivers even now. He said that norms and rules about industrial safety should be adhered to strictly in both developed and developing countries. There is special need for giving attention on avoiding such incidents in the developing countries. It should also be decided as to at what and how much cost development can be undertaken.


Chouhan was expressing his views at the condolence and all-religion prayer meeting. He conceded that lakhs of people are still suffering from the complications and effects of Bhopal gas tragedy. The state government has made continuous efforts for social, economic and medical rehabilitation of the gas victims. These efforts are still on. The Chief Minister said that the state government has also urged the Union Government to provide maximum assistance to the gas victims. The people responsible for the gas tragedy must be punished.


He said that no construction work should be undertaken on the premises of Union Carbide factory till the final decision of the case by the court. He said that conscious efforts should be undertaken to ensure that such incidents do not occur in future.


Meanwhile, according to an agency report , Dow Chemical in a statement released to coincide with the anniversary said a 312 million-euro settlement reached in 1989 with the Indian government "resolved all existing and future claims" against the company.


Union Carbide "did all it could to help the victims and their families" until the settlement and said the Indian government should be responsible for providing clean drinking water and health services to residents, the statement said. The company insists that sabotage was responsible for the leak.











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