Bhopal victims step up agitation

DANCE OF DEATH: Bhopal gas victims holding a demonstration on Parliament Street in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: S. Subramanium
NEW DELHI: Over 400 survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster and their sympathisers who on Monday organised a huge “die in” here, covering themselves in white shrouds and lying on the road while symbolic figures of death danced through the “corpses”. The gas victims and their sympathisers, who have been demonstrating here for the last fifteen days, announced that six persons (three survivors and three sympathisers) would go on an indefinite hunger strike from Tuesday.
Demonstrators said that though the Ministry of Chemicals had been sympathetic to their demands, it was up to the Prime Minister to clear any decision related to the Bhopal victims. They said the Union Cabinet’s approval for the implementation of the Supreme Court orders of 2004 for disbursement of pro-rata additional compensation on a one-to-one basis to the victims did not address their present demands. “This money was long due and a result of an agreement between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Central Government that any shortfall in converting the money payable from dollars to rupees would be taken care by the Central Government. It has nothing to with our present demands,” said Nityanand Jayaram, environmental activist and writer.
In a statement issued on Monday, four organisations, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, and Bhopal ki Awaaz cited a 2001 study published by the Madhya Pradesh government’s Centre for Rehabilitation Studies that has attributed at least 350 deaths annually to gas-related ailments.

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