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New Delhi, 28 March 2006: Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Chemical Disaster which killed over 15,000 people, were arrested while peacefully protesting in New Delhi. A group of survivors marched 800 kms from Bhopal to New Delhi, and were joined by 600 more survivors and supporters upon reaching New Delhi. The group is demanding the Prime Minister and Central Government meet their demands including a request for clean water and clean up of the contaminated factory site. They occupied the pavement outside the Ministry of Chemicals in New Delhi today amidst intense police security. The police resorted to use of force upon women and children, without any provocation from the protestors. Two women, Bano 55 and Ashraf 75, fell unconscious after the police violence.
Many of the survivor groups leaders have been detained and will appear in court tomorrow. They have vowed to go on hunger strike while in jail.
“Our Prime Minister does not care for the Indian people. He prefers kowtowing to American corporations rather than redress the long standing demands of the survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster,” said Syed Irfan, a survivor and activist for justice in Bhopal.
The Ministry of Chemicals houses the Bhopal Cell, convenes the group of ministers on Bhopal, and holds overall responsibility of addressing all issues emanating from the 1984 Gas Disaster. 22 years after the disaster, more than 20,000 people are currently forced to consume hand pump water contaminated with mercury, cadmium, benzene, and other cancer causing chemicals, that have leached out of the thousands of tonnes of toxic waste that still lie exposed to the environment in and around the Union Carbide factory site. Despite the fact that Union Carbide is a criminal absconder in the eyes of the Indian Gov’t., the Prime Minister has been meeting with Carbide owner Dow Chemical’s CEO and has initiated steps to facilitate the company’s business expansion in India.
“The Prime Minister is ultimately responsible for the welfare of the Union Carbide’s victims in Bhopal, his refusal to address their demands, exposes his insensitivity to the plight of the poor,” said Shahid Noor an activist – survivor who heads an organization of youth who were orphaned by the disaster. “This time we will not accept empty promises. We are resolved to go on an indefinite hunger strike till all our demands are met,” he said.
The Bhopal survivors are demanding clean water, environmental remediation at the cost of the polluter, setting up of a National Commission to oversee medical and economic rehabilitation, blacklisting Dow’s business in India and setting up a memorial in Bhopal.
More than 20 members of the United States Congress have written to the Indian Prime Minister urging him to address the demands of Bhopal Survivors and take action against the errant American multinationals Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. The Parliamentary Committee on Public Grievances last week summoned the Indian Govt. to explain why the Bhopal disaster remains an unresolved issue.
Ashraaf 60, was knocked unconscious by police.
Environmental Health Fund
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