6 April, 2006. New Delhi – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Victims of Union Carbide from Bhopal, who are currently camped on the pavement across anti-dam protestors from the Narmada valley at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, condemned the heavy-handed police action against the Narmada activists, some of whom were on the 7th day of hunger strike. Six survivors and four Bhopal supporters will join the Narmada Bachao Andolan today and fast in solidarity with their call to stop construction at the Sardar Sarovar Dam, and for rehabilitation of those already displaced. “The struggles of Narmada and Bhopal are one. They like us are being punished for protesting against Government’s anti-people policies in furthering industrial development,” said Shehzadi Bee, a 49 year old survivor who has walked 800 kilometres from Bhopal to New Delhi. About 300 police marched in army-style, dragged and kicked people who tried to prevent the police from reaching the hunger strikers. Satheesh Kumar, a Bhopal activist from Kerala and one of those who will undertake the indefinite hunger strike for justice in Bhopal, was among the 25 or so that were removed to the police station. All activists were released by 2 a.m. today.
In a separate development, the Bhopal campaign received a major boost from US Congressman Frank Pallone and 10 other members of the US Congress who filed an amicus curiae brief supporting Bhopalis claims against Union Carbide Corporation in a lawsuit where Bhopal residents have demanded clean-up and compensation for damages to health and property.
In a public statement, Pallone, who is the founder-leader of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, said “The Bhopal victims have repeatedly tried their cases in the US court system, but were subjected to unfair treatment and corporate favouritism.”
In 1999, survivors filed the class action lawsuit against Union Carbide and its officials in the Southern District Court of New York. The lawsuit was dismissed and later reinstated by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in November 2001 and dismissed again in March 2003 by the District Court. “The matter is currently on appeal, and the intervention by the US Congresspersons is likely to increase the chances of its success,” said Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.
In yet another unrelated development, the Union Cabinet announced yesterday that it will release Rs. 50 crores towards compensation for survivors. “The Rs. 50 crores is the shortfall that the Government was supposed to make up, and is money that rightfully belongs to survivors. In any case, it is unrelated to the demands of the survivors and the timing of the release of this information can only be seen as a cheap PR ploy by the Government,” said Shehzadi Bee. In 1989, pursuant to the Supreme Court order on the settlement, the Government of India and Reserve Bank of India agreed that any fluctuation in the exchange rates would accrue to the amount of compensation held in the dollar account. The surplus compensation resulting from this agreement amounted to more than Rs. 1500 crores. The amount sanctioned by the Government of India yesterday is a shortfall in this amount, which was due to be paid by the Government.
Survivors of the Bhopal disaster are on indefinite strike at Jantar Mantar since they arrived in Delhi by foot from Bhopal. The Prime Minister has declined to meet the Bhopal delegation despite the fact that a meeting had been requested more than 45 days ago. Barring the Ministry of Chemicals, which was positive on all six demands of the survivors, the signals from the Government indicate that it is unwilling to hold the company accountable for fear of angering US investors and the Government.
Unlike the Bhopalis, Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris has had no trouble getting audiences with the Prime Minister, who met him for lunch on two occasions – on September 15, 2005 in New York, and on March 2, 2006 in New Delhi when Liveris had accompanied the Bush delegation. The Prime Minister has instructed the setting up of a special task force in the Planning Commission to facilitate investments in two petrochemical complexes in Vizag and Haldia by Dow Chemical and DuPont. Dow Chemical wholly owns Union Carbide Corporation, the company that was declared an absconder by the Bhopal court for failing to honour court summons to appear in court to face charges of “culpable homicide” in a matter related to the 1984 gas disaster. The leak has taken more than 20,000 lives till date, and more than 100,000 remain chronically ill.
The Bhopalis will launch an indefinite fast starting 11 April, 2006.
For more information, contact:
Nityanand Jayaraman – 9868474437. Rachna: 9911289845
Website: www.bhopal.net or www.studentsforbhopal.org
Champa Devi Shukla
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Syed M Irfan,
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Bhopal ki Aawaaz
Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra,
Bhopal Group for Information and Action