FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
28 February, 2006. New Delhi
More than 60 activists, including survivors of the 1984 Bhopal disaster and their supporters, and Bhopalis whose drinking water was poisoned by Union Carbide’s toxic wastes have completed a fourth of their 800 km long padayatra from Bhopal to New Delhi to see the Prime Minister. Set to arrive in Guna, Madhya Pradesh, on 1 March, the Bhopal delegation has sought a meeting with the Prime Minister, and has declared that it is coming prepared to launch an indefinite hunger strike until all demands are met. En route, the padayatris are screening “Bhopal Express” – a Hindi feature film about the disaster – in various villages. In Pillukhedi, a town with several polluting units including a Coca Cola plant, Bhopal survivors led a special awareness session for villagers on corporate crime and globalisation.
Meanwhile, Bhopal supporters in New Delhi met Minister of State in PMO Prithviraj Chauhan, Congress MPs Oscar Fernandes and Digvijay Singh, Sebastian Paul (CPM independent MP-Kochi), Ministry of Chemicals Secretary Satwant Reddy, and Bhopal Gas Cell Director Yashvir Singh to seek their support in ensuring that the Bhopal demands are met without delay. Other meetings, including with Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi and Arjun Singh, head of group of Ministers on Bhopal, are being sought.
Survivors have demanded that the Government should set up a National Commission on Bhopal, with participation of survivor organisations, to provide facilities for health care, economic rehabilitation, medical research and social support. Other demands include the setting up of a special cell within the CBI to expedite prosecution of Union Carbide Corporation and its former chairman Warren Anderson, assessment and clean up of toxic wastes, and a ban on the Government’s purchase of Dow Chemical’s products, including the toxic pesticide Dursban. The survivors also demand that December 3 be declared a National Day of Mourning for victims of industrial disasters and that the story of the disaster must be included in educational curricula.
Internationally, solidarity is pouring in. Indian embassies in the US had received 37 phone calls and more than 170 emails in support of the walk and urging a speedy resolution of all the Bhopal demands. Demonstrations are planned at various locations including embassies and in various places in India, including New Delhi, Chennai, Kodaikanal, Kolkata and Bhopal. On 1 March, Jana Natya Manch, National School of Drama (NSD) and the Delhi-based youth group We For Bhopal are organising a play and dance performance on Bhopal at the NSD.
Despite blistered feet and swollen legs, morale among the padayatris is high. Speaking from Vijaypur, Madhyapradesh, where the padayatris are currently interacting with villagers, Champa Devi Shukla of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmachari Sangh said “We are confident of getting our demands met. The Government has had 22 years notice. The only demand the Government is likely to balk at is in prosecuting Union Carbide and Warren Anderson, and that’s why we have declared that we’re prepared to fast as long as it takes to get the Government to overcome its fear of or love for the United States.”
Recent events indicate that the Prime Minister and the Government are actively facilitating Dow and Union Carbide’s business interests in India. On September 15, 2005, the Indian Prime Minister personally met Mr. Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical, at a high-powered luncheon with US corporate CEOs. Within months, the Planning Commission was asked to set up a special task force to facilitate investments by US corporations, including Dow Chemical which has expressed interest in setting up petrochemical plants in Vizag and Haldia, West Bengal.
The four organizations : Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information and Action and Bhopal ki Aawaaz will present their charter of demands to the Prime Minister.
For more information, contact:
Madhumita Dutta: 26105472/41652451-52
Pragya Vats: 9868424692
Nishant Jain: 9811764745
Address: A 1/125 (FF)
New Delhi 110029