Times of India, May 21, 2008
NEW DELHI: Thirty-seven Bhopal gas disaster survivors, including 22 women, were arrested Wednesday when they chained themselves near Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence here to demand that the government address their grievances.
The police said the people chained themselves to the railings opposite the heavily-guarded prime minister’s residence.
“They were not allowed to go near the PM’s house, so they chained themselves. We cut their chains and took them into custody,” Joint Commissioner of Police (New Delhi Range) Ajay Kashyap said.
Under the banner of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha and Bhopal Group for Information and Action, the protestors sought legal action against Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals and better rehabilitation of the Bhopal victims.
On the night of Dec 2-3, 1984, a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal spewed tonnes of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas, killing some 3,800 people instantly and many more later. Dow Chemicals later bought Union Carbide.
The world’s worst industrial disaster also affected thousands, many of who continue to suffer from various chronic diseases.
Contaminated groundwater around the plant area still infects people with various ailments ranging from skin problems to birth defects, say activists working among the survivors.
Many of the survivors have been staging a protest in New Delhi for nearly two months. They had sought a meeting with the prime minister in January.
Nityanand Jayaraman, an activist, said: “On April 16, a Bhopal boy wrote a letter to the prime minister using blood drawn from the Bhopal victims, seeking an hour of his time.
“The letter was delivered to the prime minister along with handwritten notes from more than 500 children from across the country,” he said.
Since then, 2,800 people from 18 countries have sent fax messages to the prime minister’s office seeking a meeting with Manmohan Singh.
“Twenty-three years is too long. This is a matter of our lives and liberty, and our children’s health. We are not prepared to wait, and will do what it takes to ensure that the Prime Minister realises that we, and not American corporations, are his priority,” a joint statement from the protesting groups said.
NGOs working among the survivors have demanded a commission to execute social, economic and medical rehabilitation of the victims, environmental clean-up of the area and provision of clean drinking water.