Staff Reporter, The Hindu
Threaten to go on an indefinite fast if the Government fails to agree to their charter of demands
NEW DELHI: Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy marched to Parliament Street from Nizamuddin Park here on Monday morning demanding justice and rehabilitation for the victims.
They also threatened to go on an indefinite fast if the Government fails to agree to their charter of demands.
The protestors are demanding appointment of a National Commission on Bhopal to oversee medical and social rehabilitation, supply of safe drinking water to communities now drinking contaminated water, speedy prosecution of the accused, including Union Carbide Corporation and its former chairman, environmental remediation and memorialising the disaster by including it in school and college curricula and building a Bhopal Memorial in consultation with survivors
The protestors were joined by representatives from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan and trade unions members and various non-government organisations. Also participating were people from communities affected by pollution including silicosis victims from Wazirpur and others from different parts of the country. On Saturday, 39 survivors of the gas tragedy had reached New Delhi after a month-long 800-km walk all the way from Bhopal.
“It is unfortunate that the Government treats our life and death issues so casually. We are tired of repeating the same demands for 21 years and returning with empty promises from successive Prime Ministers. This time, we will not return to Bhopal with mere promises; we will leave Delhi only after all our six demands are fulfilled,” said survivor-activist Champa Devi Shukla.
Champa Devi was also part of a 100-women delegation that marched from Bhopal to Delhi in June 1989 to meet the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. They returned with promises, which she claims have remained unfulfilled to date.
According to the protestors, the 800-km march and subsequent sit-in in New Delhi is prompted by a growing closeness between the Government of India and Union Carbide’s owner Dow Chemical of the U.S..
Also, as summer approaches the water-affected communities are particularly concerned about the drinking water situation.
“It doesn’t take much to provide us drinking water. Every day we hear about mega industrial investments. How is it that they find water for industries when they can’t find any for country’s poor?” asked Shameem, a resident of Atal Ayub Nagar, where the scientists found extremely high levels of pollutants in the water from community hand pumps.