Qatar – Indo-Asian News Service
Published: Saturday, 25 March, 2006, 10:04 AM Doha Time
BHOPAL: Over 100 victims of the Bhopal gas disaster have threatened to sit on a hunger strike in New Delhi if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh does not heed their demands to provide relief to the survivors of the 1984 industrial tragedy.
The survivors, who set off on a 900km foot march from the now-defunct Union Carbide pesticide plant here to the Indian capital, are demanding the prime minister’s intervention in ensuring “justice and a life of dignity for themselves and their ilk”.
The survivors, slated to reach New Delhi Saturday, will submit their six-point charter of demands to Manmohan Singh.
“We expect to meet the prime minister any day between March 27 and March 31,” said Rachna Dhingra, of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action (BGIA), which is leading the march.
Speaking by phone from Faridabad, bordering Delhi, where they are taking out a rally in association with the local unit of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), she said: “In case the prime minister fails to listen to us we will sit on an indefinite hunger strike.”
BGIA is an organisation of gas survivors. Three other similar bodies joining the march are: Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (BGPMSKS), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha (BGPMPSM) and Bhopal Ki Aawaaz (BKA).
The marchers include survivors up to 70 years age. There are also some teenagers who live in the localities and areas affected by ground water contamination caused by the leak of over 40tons of lethal methyl iso cyanate gas from the Union Carbide’s pesticide plant on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984. The leak, which killed an estimated 20,000 people and maimed several thousands for life, is described as one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.
According to the organisations, ground water samples collected near the Union Carbide plant have shown contamination levels 10 times higher than in other areas. High levels of heavy metals such as nickel, chromium, mercury, lead and other toxic materials have also been found in the soil.