Bhopal gas tragedy victims condemn state government

IANS, June 14, 2008
Bhopal, June 14 (IANS) An organisation of victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak holocaust has condemned the Madhya Pradesh government for pushing to incinerate toxic wastes from the closed pesticide plant despite the recommendations of experts. Syed M. Irfan, president of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha, said: “The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government has led the effort in the high court to burn 340 tonnes of Union Carbide’s toxic wastes in an incinerator in Ankleshwar, Gujarat, despite opposition by the Gujarat government, warnings by experts and the opinion of the technical sub committee constituted by the court.”
The methyl isocyanate leak from the pesticide plant on Dec 2-3, 1984 killed at least 3,800 people immediately and affected around 50,000 more. Health and environmental effects of what is often called the world’s worst industrial disaster are continuing.
Irfan referred to a recent media report that alleged the BJP had taken a Rs.100,000 donation from Dow Chemicals, which has bought over Union Carbide, to say “this is merely the tip of the iceberg”.
While the MP Pollution Control Board has been reporting severe contamination of groundwater around the closed-down plant from 1996, the state government continues to deny this, Irfan said.
“Similarly, despite a 2006 report on the health damage caused by contaminated groundwater by the Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, a state government research agency, the same government refuses to acknowledge these injuries.
“A state government sponsored study completed last year by the Gandhi Medical College on the health effects of water contamination remains under wraps.”
Irfan alleged: “Recently, BJP minister Ajay Vishnoi was caught for skimming money from the gas relief funds.”
“The state government is actively pushing Dow’s agenda of creating a memorial over the lands where more than 10,000 tons of toxic wastes lie buried,” Irfan said. “It is the buried waste, rather than the 340 tonnes that the government is desperate to burn, that needs to be dealt with as a priority.”
The state’s minister in charge of relief to gas victims has opposed the commission on Bhopal recommended by the Group of Ministers recently, Irfan said.
The minister has reportedly pointed out that there are already two Supreme Court Committees on medical rehabilitation, and that no commission can be above that.
“However,” Irfan said, “the state government’s disdain for the Supreme Court is clear from its track record of compliance with the apex court’s directions.
“The Supreme Court monitoring committee on medical rehabilitation has recorded that the state government has failed to act on any of the recommendations contained in no less than six of its reports.
“A May 2004 order of the Supreme Court directing the state government to deliver clean drinking water to 14 water-affected communities near the Union Carbide factory remains unimplemented.”
Nine of the gas victims and their supporters, who had started an indefinite hunger strike in New Delhi June 10 to press their demands for better rehabilitation and justice, continued their protest Saturday.
Two Bhopal residents – Rachna Dhingra and Meera More – are fasting in Tihar Jail, where they were being held with 21 others arrested on June 9 for demonstrating outside the prime minister’s office.
Over 80 people from seven countries are fasting in solidarity, Irfan said. “Of these, 10 people, including, noted Booker-shortlisted author of ‘Animal’s People’ Indra Sinha, long-time Bhopal supporter Diane Wilson from Texas, USA and Chennai-based Shweta Narayan have begun an indefinite fast that will end only when justice is done.”

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