Mon Mar 27, 10:05 AM ET
NEW DELHI (AFP) – Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak arrived in the Indian capital pledging to go on indefinite hunger strike unless their demands for justice and rehabilitation are met.
Around 40 survivors of the deadly poisoning reached New Delhi after a month-long 800-kilometre (500-mile) walk from Bhopal in central Madhya Pradesh state.
They were joined by hundreds of other victims for a protest rally near the federal parliament.
“We have been waiting for 21 years now. This time, they (the government) will either meet our demands or our dead bodies,” said Rasheeda Bi, who lost six members of her family to cancer attributed to the leak.
“People were falling dead when the gas leaked. We prayed for our deaths. Those who died were very lucky,” she said.
More than 3,500 people died immediately after 40 tonnes of lethal methyl isocyanate gas seeped from a Union Carbide plant just before midnight on December 2, 1984.
The death toll has since climbed to more than 15,000, according to government figures. Rights activists say the toll is double and that people are still suffering from drinking toxic water.
The protestors shouted slogans and carried placards calling for justice.
They are scheduled to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this week to press their demands, which include better medical treatment, the clean-up of toxic waste and uncontaminated piped water from a nearby dam, and the prosecution of Warren Anderson, former Union Carbide chief.
“We were given assurances by the government in 1989 that the demands will be met, but nothing came out of that. This time, we will not relent,” said Nityanand Jayaraman, spokesman for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.
“Things have gone worse. The chemicals have spread to the ground water,” he said.
Bhopal residents living around the sealed Carbide plant said they were still reeling from the effects of contamination.
“My daughter-in-law just gave birth to a baby. The boy is totally emaciated,” said Kankar Bai, 45, whose husband, daughter, and son’s family perished in the disaster. “I go mad when I think of that night.”