Bhopal victims end stir on PM’s word

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 01:50 IST
NEW DELHI: Bhopal gas tragedy victims called off a week-long indefinite hunger strike on Monday after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to four of their six demands.
The victims of a 1984 gas leak at Bhopal’s Union Carbide plant had marched 800 km from Bhopal to Delhi as a sign of protest and started their stir on March 29 at the Jantar Mantar. They embarked on an indefinite hunger strike on April 11.
Nityanand Jayaraman, a social activist leading the agitation, said the central government has agreed to provide a safe drinking water facility and to set up a national commission to provide healthcare, medical research, social support and economic rehabilitation to the survivors.
“Though there is no time frame to set up the commission, we expect it to happen soon or else the victims will restart the agitation,” Jayaraman said.
The government also agreed to a scientific assessment of the depth and speed of toxic contamination in and around the Union Carbide factory and to make Dow chemicals pay to clean up the toxic contamination.
“It is very disappointing for us that the prime minister refused to blacklist Dow Chemicals in India or to take extra legal action against the company,” said Shehzadi, a victim who was part of the 10-member group that met Manmohan Singh.The victims said, regarding their demand for action against Dow Chemical, the prime minister stated,
“I do not promise to prosecute the company, because we have to do business.”
The activists said since the government has decided not to take action against the company, they would take direct and legal action against the company’s activities in India.
“We will protest outside the offices of the company and also confront them,” said Jayaraman.
He also said they would look for various legal options against the firm. Manmohan Singh has also agreed to build a memorial for the victims of the disaster and declare December 3 a national day of mourning for the victims of the industrial disaster.

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