News Post India, June 11, 2008
Bhopal gas leak tragedy survivors, who have dismissed the prime minister’s promise to set up a rehabilitation council for them and started a hunger strike in the capital to press their demands, continued their agitation Wednesday.
Nine survivors, who are victims of water contamination in the aftermath of the poisonous gas leak, and their supporters started the hunger strike Tuesday.
Satinath Sarangi, one of the activists working on the survivors’ campaign, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement, issued nearly three weeks back, simply says that the government agrees with the protestors’ demands “in principle” but does not give any details of the promised commission.
‘Details such as the commission’s powers, who will be on the panel, how it will function and so on have not been mentioned. They just agree to our demand in principle,’ Sarangi told IANS.
‘Also, setting up of the rehabilitation council is just one of our demands. While the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) promised us that it will tell us the status of the rest of our demands after a consultation in June, we haven’t heard from anyone ever since,’ he added.
The Bhopal gas leak holocaust, frequently cited as the world’s worst industrial disaster, took place on Dec 2-3, 1984. A Union Carbide pesticide plant leaked over 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, killing at least 3,800 people and affecting many more.
Legal action against Dow Chemical that now owns Union Carbide has been one of the main demands of the survivors but was not mentioned anywhere in the PMO’s statement, Sarangi said.
Meanwhile, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, who is also the head of a Group of Ministers on the Bhopal tragedy, Wednesday said the problems of the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors would be ‘solved within a week’.
Sarangi said: ‘Thirty-six victims including 10 children held a protest in front of the PMO’s office and were subsequently arrested two days back. While the children have been released, the others are still in jail.
‘They have decided not to sign any paper which states that what they have done is an offence and that they regret it. Therefore, it will be a long struggle for them in the jail,’ he said.
Sarangi said author Indra Sinha also joined the strike, from his home in southwest France.