From correspondents in Madhya Pradesh, India, 09:02pm
Hundreds of Bhopal gas tragedy survivors here Saturday -the tenth day of their ‘Jeene Ka Haq’ (Right to Live) campaign – staged a ‘die-in’ at the Chief Minister’s House to draw the attention of Shivraj Singh Chouhan towards their plight.
Demanding proper healthcare and economic rehabilitation from the state government, the survivors, most of who were women wrapped in white saris (coffin wear), lay outside Chouhan’s residence from where they were taken away to jail by the police.
The disaster occurred on the night of Dec 2, 1984, when over 40 tonnes of lethal Methyl Iso-Cyanate (MIC) spewed out of the American multinational Union Carbide Corporation’s (UCC) pesticide plant instantly killing over 3,000 people and maiming thousands for life. More than 15,000 people affected with exposure to the toxic gas have died since then.
The survivors have been staging demonstration for the past nine days to mark the first anniversary of their protest march from Bhopal to New Delhi in support of their demands.
The campaign has been launched 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 UCC’s now-defunct plant.
Leaders of various gas-survivors’ organisations — 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 what they called the state government’s indifference towards the suffering of affected survivors.
‘Madhya Pradesh government’s criminal indifference towards the plight of those poisoned by the Union Carbide gas leak was prolonging the suffering of the victims and causing untimely deaths. The die-in would serve as a stark reminder to the chief minister about the state government’s duties towards the victims,’ said Rashida Bee, Golden Peacock award winner, fighting for the cause of survivors.
Rashida, who has lost six members of his family to cancer and is herself undergoing treatment for exposure-related illnesses, further said: ‘I and my fellow activists are prepared to die to assert the right to life of the victims of Union Carbide.’
Sangharsh Morcha president Syed M. Irfan said: ‘The state government was ignoring the decisions of the Coordination Committee on Bhopal set up by the prime minister last year for relief and rehabilitation of Bhopal victims. It was also guilty of not following the directions of the Supreme Court regarding supply of safe water to the communities next to the abandoned Union Carbide factory that are affected by ground water contamination.’
The organisations also announced a ‘Black Holi’ Sunday as a mark of condemnation against the state government’s apathy. They have urged survivors of the disaster to play Holi with black colour keeping in mind the fact that a group of survivors and their supporters will begin an indefinite fast from March 5.
‘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 Champa Devi, who was awarded the Golden Peacock for her services to the victims.