Observing Shahid Bhagat Singh Divas on 23 March, more than 250 survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster sat on a day-long fast in support of the Koodankulam struggle against the nuclear power plant. Condemning Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s act of charging Koodankulam protestors with “Sedition,” Bhopal survivors said that Bhagat Singh’s fate would have been no different in independent India than at the hands of the white colonial masters.
In December 2011, after waiting for 26 years, Bhopal victims staged a rail roko to press the Central and State Governments to submit accurate figures of dead and injured in a revised compensation claims case filed in the Supreme Court. Cases, including on serious charges of attempt to murder were registered against 2000 people, including elderly women and children. From Chattisgarh to Madhya Pradesh to Delhi to Tamilnadu, people in the Government are the same. “They see poor as objects of charity, pity, ridicule or as seditious upstarts that need to be taught a lesson for their audacity to speak out,” the survivors said.
While the Governments had filed a review petition reopening the 1989 settlement on grounds that casualty and injury figures were under-estimated in 1989, their current submissions too fall far short of the real figures. Survivors have said that Dow Chemical should pay at least $8 billion to address the compensation needs of all survivors and those bereaved. The Central Government is asking only for $1.2 billion.
“We’re reminders to the world that the State and Central Governments in India will only protect the rich. The residents of Koodankulam should be ready to accept that the Government will do nothing but hide any pollution from the plant, and will do nothing to rehabilitate or compensate those affected by the plant,” a group of five Bhopal organisations said.
The Nuclear Liability Act is the unfortunate result of the Bhopal struggle. Pained by the plight of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical that continued to remain in the eye of legal controversy despite the passage of more than two decades, Dr. Manmohan Singh tabled the Nuclear Liability Act to shield the perpetrators of any future nuclear Bhopals from liability.
The survivors have said that they will send a delegation of Bhopalis to Chennai in the coming month. The organisers of the Bhopal hunger strike included Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Manch, Bhopal Group for Information and Action and Childre Against Dow Carbide.