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,
"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.