Tuesday April 18 2006 00:00 IST
NEW DELHI: Protesting victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy here called off their week-long indefinite hunger strike on Monday after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to four of their six demands.
“We met the Prime Minister for 20 minutes and he agreed to four of our demands,” said Nityanand Jayaraman, a social activist leading the agitation.
The victims of the 1984 gas leak at Bhopal’s Union Carbide plant had marched 800 km from Bhopal to Delhi as a sign of protest and started their stir on March 29 at Jantar Mantar. They embarked on an indefinite hunger strike on April 11.
Jayaraman said the Central Government on Monday agreed to include a safe drinking water facility and the setting up of a national commission to provide healthcare, medical research, social support and economic rehabilitation to the survivors.
“Though there is no time frame to set up the commission, we expect it to happen soon or else the victims will restart the agitation,” he added.
The Government also agreed to a scientific assessment of the depth and speed of toxic contamination in and around the Union Carbide factory and make Dow Chemicals pay to clean up the toxic contamination. Manmohan Singh has also agreed to build a memorial for the victims of the disaster and declare December 3 as a national day of mourning for the victims of the industrial disaster.
“It is very disappointing for us that the Prime Minister refused to blacklist Dow Chemicals in India or to take extra legal action against the company,” said Shehzadi, a victim who was part of the 10-member group that met Manmohan Singh.
The victims said that on their demand for action against Dow Chemicals, the Prime Minister stated, “I do not promise to prosecute the company, we have to do business. India has to survive despite all these tragedies. People’s welfare is our immediate concern and (let’s) leave aside the rest of the politics to politicians.”
The activists said that since the Government has decided not to take action against the company, they would take direct and legal action against the company’s activities in India. “We will carry out protests outside the offices of the company and also confront them,” said Jayaraman. He added that they would also look for various legal options against the firm.