Agence France Presse, August 8, 2008
Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy protest outside the Indian Prime Minister’s Residence in May 2008
NEW DELHI (AFP) — Victims of India’s 1984 Bhopal gas leak which killed thousands of people ended months of sit-in protests on Friday after the government promised new assistance.
About 70 people affected by the gas leak had camped on a New Delhi pavement for more than three months after walking 800 kilometres (500 miles) from Bhopal city to the capital.
The government would set up a powerful commission to ensure better “rehabilitation” for victims and their families, chemicals minister Ram Vilas Paswan told the protesters.
The Bhopal disaster occurred when a storage tank at a pesticide plant spewed deadly cyanide gas into the air, killing more than 3,500 people immediately.
The death toll has since climbed to more than 15,000, the government says.
Activists and protesters want the site to be cleared of thousands of tonnes of toxic waste embedded in the soil, as well as jobs and compensation.
“The government today promised to set up a new panel with more powers to look into medical, environmental and economic support,” said Rachna Dhingra, spokeswoman for a Bhopal victims group.
Activists said survivors would be represented on the panel.
“I was 28-years-old then. Our fight has been going on for 24 years, and we will keep up the pressure on the government,” said survivor Hazari Bee.