29th November 2007, Bhopal/New Delhi — The world’s first award for women fighting corporate crimes will be announced in Bhopal on 5 December, 2007, as part of the week-long activities surrounding the 23rd anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster. Inspired by their own slogan – “We are Flames, not Flowers” – two Bhopali women survivors from the 1984 gas disaster instituted the Chingari (Embers) Award for Women Against Corporate Crime. The award, which includes a trophy, citation and Rs. 50,000 in cash, is one of three things that Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla decided to do when they set up the Chingari Trust with the $125,000 Goldman Environmental Prize received by them in 2004. Shukla and Bee received the award for sustaining the struggle for justice for the Bhopal survivors against the combined might of the Indian Government, Union Carbide and its successor Dow Chemical.
Chingari trustees, members of the awards jury and the award winners are all women.
The Chingari Award will annually recognize one woman who is working at great personal risk and hardship to expose and fight human rights excesses of corporations. “The Chingari Award is particularly relevant at this juncture where the Government has made its intentions of submitting to corporate-led globalization extremely clear. The coming years will see some of the world’s most powerful corporations pitted against some of the most marginalized people – adivasis, dalits and peasants – with the police playing hitman for the investors,” said Suroopa Mukherjee, chairperson of the Trust and Reader at Hindu College in New Delhi.
A six-person jury, led by Mahashweta Devi, screened 10 nominations from rural areas around the country, and short-listed four women. One of the four will receive the 1st Chingari Award at a ceremony at Rajendra Bhavan, Bhopal, on 5 December. The award will be given away by Shri Achyutanand Mishra, Vice Chancellor of Makhanlal Chaturvedi Rashtriya Patrakarita Evam Sanchar Vishwavidyalaya, Bhopal. Other jury members include Ajitha George (Jharkhand), S. Usha (Kerala), Sujata Gothoskar and Mira Sadgopal (Maharashtra) and Pamela Philipose (New Delhi).
“To fight corporate crime, one needs patience, courage, staying power and the ability to withstand mental and physical hardships – all inherently female qualities. We hope that the recognition and the solidarity that will come in the wake of the award will not only strengthen the award recipient’s campaign but also inspire more women to lead struggles against environmental and human rights violations of corporations,” said Chingari managing trustees Rashida Bee and Champa Devi.
The Awards panel clarified that the prize was “more inspirational than competitive.”
The struggle for justice in Bhopal is one of the longest-running fights against corporate crime and Government collusion. The December 3, 1984, gas leak from Union Carbide’s pesticide factory in Bhopal killed more than 8000 and hurt lakhs more. Survivors of the disaster are now joined by their children in a fight to force the Government to hold Dow Chemical – Union Carbide’s new owner – accountable for the lingering liabilities in Bhopal.
Bhopal: Rashida Bee/Champa Devi Shukla: 0755-2747500 / 09425688215 (cell-Rashida)
New Delhi: Shalini Sharma: 09891442037
44 Sant Kanwar Ram Nagar
462018 Madhya Pradesh