Survivors of the Union Carbide gas tragedy in Bhopal on Saturday evening marched with torches to honour those killed in the disaster. Hundreds took part in the procession held marking the 39th anniversary of the tragedy.
The torchlight procession ended at the foot of the statue of the ‘Mother’ - a memorial built opposite the abandoned pesticide factory of Union Carbide from where toxic gas spewed on night intervening December 2 and 3, 1984, killing thousands and maiming lakhs for life.
The leaders of the five organisations, who took part in the march, presented their demands amid chants of “mourn for the dead; fight for the living.”
Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh said: “Union Carbide and Dow Chemical (current owners) are yet to pay damages for the health injuries, including birth defects, of children of gas exposed parents. Also the principle of ‘polluter pays’ is valid in both India and USA, so the US corporations must pay for environmental contamination of soil and groundwater up to five kilometres from the factory.”
Speaking on the organisations’ lack of success in making Union Carbide and Dow Chemical pay additional compensation through the curative petition in the Supreme Court, Balkrishna Namdeo of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogee Sangharsh Morcha said: “The 1991 order of the Supreme Court on the settlement is very clear on this. The union government is committed to pay the survivors the shortfall in compensation.”
“During the proceedings of the curative petition the attorney general has repeatedly stressed that the compensation paid by Union Carbide is indeed inadequate. Therefore, the Bhopal survivors now expect the central government to pay adequate compensation to them,” he added.
Demanding penal action against corporations who broke the law and continued to do business with Union Carbide while it evaded Bhopal court in criminal proceedings, Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action said, “We have evidence that public sector undertakings like Gas Authority India Limited (GAIL), ONGC, Indian Oil Corporation, Gujarat Alkalies Chlorides Limited and others continued to do business with Union Carbide while it was absconding. The representatives of these PSUs must be punished for aiding a killer corporation.”
Nawab Khan, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha called for the setting up of an Empowered Commission on Bhopal that has the authority and the corpus fund to ensure long term medical care and social rehabilitation of the survivors and their next generation. “Such a commission was approved by the Manmohan Singh government in 2008 and is the best means to address the long aftermath of the disaster.”
Pointing at massive funds that remain unutilized by the Madhya Pradesh Department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation, Nasreen Khan of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh said, “Over Rs 100 crores meant for job creation for survivors’ children remain unutilized for last 13 years, while tens of thousands of young men and women are looking for gainful employment.”