FROM “THE HINDU”
‘We will not return to Bhopal this time without getting all our demands met’
SEEKING JUSTICE: A woman holding a banner at a rally marking the end of an 800-km march by gas tragedy victims who reached Delhi from Bhopal on Saturday.
NEW DELHI: Student leaders from Jawaharlal Nehru University, trade unions members and representatives of various non-government organisations welcomed the 46 padayatris, including 39 victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, who arrived at Nizamuddin here at the end of their 800-km-long march from Bhopal.
The march began from Bhopal on February 20 and saw the participation of 39 gas victims including 19 women and 20 men. The survivors are demanding justice and a life of dignity and have resolved that they will not return to Bhopal this time without getting all their demands met. Representatives of four Bhopal-based organisations who coordinated the “padyatra” are also hoping to present their six-point charter of demands to the Prime Minister by this month end.
Their demands include setting up of a national commission on Bhopal to oversee medical and social rehabilitation, supply of safe drinking water to communities now drinking contaminated water, speedy prosecution of the accused, including Union Carbide Corporation and its former chairman, environmental remediation and memorialising the disaster by including it in school and college curriculum and building a Bhopal memorial in consultation with survivors.
Speaking about the problems that the Bhopal gas tragedy victims have been living with one of the ‘padyatris’ who arrived here this afternoon, Champa Devi Shukla, said: “Our only regret now is the fact that we did not die that fateful night, instead we were left to die a little each day. Despite the huge tragedy, the government has been unable to even provide us with the most basic need of clean drinking water. We aren’t demanding things that the government cannot give to its people, we are demanding basic amenities without which life for us has become a living hell.”
“We have travelled a long way here and enroute, 13 ‘padyatris’ had to visit the district hospital in Shivpuri and 11 had to return to Bhopal from Guna due to ill health. Besides the survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster, several people from among the 20,000 people now forced to drink water poisoned by Union Carbide’s toxic wastes are also part of the ‘padyatra’,” said Satinath Sarangi.
Meanwhile, the Bhopal ‘padyatris’ have stirred up massive outrage around the world and they claim that at least 2,000 faxes, emails and 10,000 signatures have been sent to the Prime Minister’s office by their supporters worldwide, urging him to meet the people and resolve their issues.