Bhopal survivors take the protest to Delhi

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Bhopal ki Aawaaz
Bhopal Group for Information and Action

March 1, 2007
More than a year since 55 Bhopal survivors and their supporters walked 800 km from Bhopal to New Delhi, survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster are being forced to launch an indefinite fast starting 5 March, 2007 to get the State Government to implement their demands for environmental remediation, clean water, medical care and economic and social rehabilitation. Last April, after 17 days of dharna and 7 days of hunger strike, Bhopalis met the Prime Minister who refused action against the offending corporations but conceded to the demands for medical care and social, economic and environmental rehabilitation of the Bhopal survivors.
A special Coordination Committee on Bhopal was set up with the participation of survivor organisations, senior State officials and Central Government officials. The Committee has met two times during which the State Government agreed to several measures to provide long-awaited relief and rehabilitation to survivors. One year hence, no work has even commenced. Hundreds of survivors of the December 1984 disaster and residents from communities affected by groundwater r contaminated by Union Carbide’s toxic wastes are currently on dharna ( sit-in) against the Madhya Pradesh Government since 20 February, 2007.
Addressing a press conference today in New Delhi , Rashida Bee a survivor of the Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal charged the Madhya Pradesh government with criminally obstructing medical care and rehabilitation of the survivors of the disaste. Mrs. Bee who received the Goldman Environmental Prize for leading the Bhopal survivors’ 22 year long struggle said that hundreds of survivors in Bhopal are today on the 10th day of their dharna (sit in) against the Madhya Pradesh government. She said that the BJP government in the state continues to see the aftermath of the world’s worst industrial disaster as a Muslim problem because of the relatively larger proportion of Muslims among the victims of Union Carbide.
Satinath Sarangi from the Bhopal Group for Information and Action said that today there are more than 100, 000 survivors suffering from chronic problems of multi-systemic origin such as breathlessness, diminished vision, loss of appetite, joint pains, body ache, early menopause, immune disorders, tingling and numbness in the limbs, panic attacks, anxiety and depression and a host of others. The children born to exposed parents have been found to have growth and development disorders and tuberculosis and cancers in the exposed population have been rising in the last several years.
According to Mr Sarangi who has been involved with research and relief efforts ever since the disaster, in addition to the people affected by Union Carbide’s toxic gases, more than 25, 000 people suffer from the effects of chronic exposure to chemicals in groundwater that cause damage to the brain, lungs, liver, kidney and other organs and cause cancers and birth defects. More than 10 Governmental and non-Governmental studies confirm groundwater contamination due to the reckless dumping of hazardous chemical wastes by Union Carbide.
The Centre for Rehabilitation Studies of the Madhya Pradesh government has confirmed that unusually large number of people living in the communities next to the factory suffer from problems related to their routine exposure through contaminated water from local hand pumps. Tests carried out at IIT, Kanpur by the New Delhi based Fact Finding Mission on Bhopal showed the presence of toxic chemicals such as chloroform, chlorobenzenes and dichloromethane and heavy metals such as lead and mercury in the breast milk of mothers in these communities. In December 2006, doctors from New Delhi’s St Stephens Hospital found an unusually high number of children with cerebral palsy in this population. The hospital has recently provided surgical treatment to six Bhopal children born with cleft lip and missing palate, a congenital deformity linked to chemical exposure.
Sarangi and Rashida said that at least 50,000 survivors are unable to earn a livelihood because of their exposure related sicknesses and the paltry compensation amounts people received was inadequate to pay for routine medical care expenses. They said that while the state government promised jobs to 10, 000 survivors not one has found gainful employment despite the expenditure of over Rs. 40 Crores. According to them thousands of families of survivors living below the poverty line, with no earning members (either due to sickness or death) and families with children born with congenital deformities are in dire need of social security.
According to Sarangi and Rashida, instead of providing the most basic means of survival to the ailing victims such as proper medical care and economic and social rehabilitation, the state government’s sole response to the ongoing disaster has been to try to get the residents of the non-gas affected Hindu dominated parts of the city included among claimants for compensation. They said that there was no scientific, legal or moral basis for such inclusion yet that has been the only matter the BJP government has been active.
Sarangi and Rashida said that the Madhya Pradesh government was ignoring the Supreme Court of India’s orders regarding supply of safe water to the people living in the contaminated areas and had not implemented any of the recommendations of the Monitoring Committee set up by the Supreme Court for overlooking the government health care system. They said that the indefinite hunger strike in Bhopal will continue till the state government gives in to the demands for proper medical care, gainful employment, social support and protection from Union Carbide’s poisons.
Rashida Bee, Champa Devi Shukla
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
093024 32298
Syed M Irfan
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
093290 26319
Shahid Noor
Bhopal ki Aawaaz
098261 82226
Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
098261 67369
Bhopal contact : House No. 60, Risaldar Colony, Union Carbide Road, Bhopal 462 001
New Delhi contacts : Shalini Sharma: 9891442037, Suroopa Mukherjee: 9818029882
Please visit for latest information on the situation in Bhopal, and www.studentsforbhopal to take part in action to support the survivors.

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