Bhopal gas leak victims protest government apathy

INDO ASIAN NEWS SERVICE, BHOPAL, FEBRUARY 23, 2007
Survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy here Friday took out a torch rally as part of a campaign to protest the state government’s alleged apathy in providing relief and rehabilitation to them.
The survivors have been staging strikes for the past four days under the campaign ‘Jeene Ka Haq’ (Right to Live) that marks the first anniversary of their protest march from Bhopal to New Delhi in support of their demands.
The campaign was launched Tuesday to push for the resolution of their long-pending demands, including healthcare, economic rehabilitation and social support for the survivors and their families, availability of safe drinking water and removal of hazardous waste from the Union Carbide Corporation’s (UCC) now-defunct pesticide plant.
Disaster occurred on the night of Dec 2, 1984, when over 40 tonnes of lethal Methyl Iso-Cyanate (MIC) spewed out of the pesticide plant killing more than 3,000 people instantly and maiming thousands of people for life. More than 15,000 people affected with the exposure of toxic gas have died since then.
The leaders of various gas-survivors’ organizations – including Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (BGPMSKS), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha (BGPMPSM), Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) and Bhopal Ki Aawaaz (BKA) – condemned the state government’s and the Chief Minister’s alleged continued indifference towards the suffering of the people poisoned by the UCC.
‘The apathy of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is evident from the fact that he has not responded to any of the petitions submitted to him since June 2006. The organisations were promised a response from him by Feb 20 but there has been no word from his office so far,’ said Rachna Dhingra of BGIA.
‘This indifference towards the people poisoned by the UCC is prolonging their suffering and causing untimely deaths because the state government has failed in providing economic rehabilitation to the victims who have lost their livelihood as a result of gas exposure’, claimed another activist Satinath Sarangi from BGIA.
‘The state government is not only negligent towards the victims but it is also colluding with the corporations responsible for the disaster by attempting to incinerate part of the hazardous waste kept within the UCC factory. It has even sought Rs.20 million from the central government for the purpose,’ alleged activist Champa Devi, who won the Goldman award for her services to the victims.
They are also demanding that the state government must ensure availability of funds for relief and rehabilitation of people poisoned by the UCC at least for the next 30 years.

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