Category Archives: Community Blog

Survivors and our dedicated campaign volunteers around the globe regularly reflect on the fight for justice in Bhopal and our experiences with Dow Chemical.

Bhopal activists highlight ongoing plight of survivors, hold protest at Dow Chemical headquarters – May 2013

Dow Shareholder Meeting and Moving Forward

This past May, ICJB-NA Advisory Board Member Caitlyn Schuchhardt and a group of students and alumni from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, geared up to protest outside of Dow Chemical’s annual shareholder meeting in Midland, Michigan. Students Shanna Krogh, Taylor Huwe, Katie Miller, and alumna Megan John joined Caitlyn on a 16-hour road trip to Midland, intent on urging Dow Chemical to accept responsibilities for the ongoing industrial disaster in Bhopal.

 

 

In addition to our presence outside of the meeting, we were able to pose two questions during the unaired Q&A period at the end of the shareholder meeting.  We posed these questions from the perspective of a Dow shareholder. Here are the questions we asked, followed by the response we received from Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical’s current CEO.

Question 1

Q. Our wholly-owned subsidiary, Union Carbide Corporation, is still considered an “absconder,” a fugitive, by the Indian Supreme Court.  Not only do they have charges remaining against us for negligence in the case of the gas leak, but they have outstanding liabilities stemming from the ongoing water contamination the factory has caused. As their parent company, we, Dow Chemical can ensure that Union Carbide returns to court to face their outstanding charges, but we have refused to do so, and thus we continue to harbor a fugitive.

 

In October of 2012, India’s High Court lifted a stay on summoning The Dow Chemical Company that had been in place since 2005.  Should we now be summoned to court and asked why we haven’t produced the fugitive Union Carbide, what would we say?  How will we explain our blatant disregard of the law? We have acknowledged various liabilities, particularly in Texas, why have we not addressed Bhopal properly?

 

As a shareholder, I want to know how we are recognizing and dealing with this matter, especially when the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster is coming up, which has the ability to impact our stocks. How do we justify our behavior and continued denial of responsibility?

Liveris’ response (paraphrased for the most part, quotes are close to exact):

As Dow has stated in the past, “Dow did not own or operate Union Carbide at the time of the gas leak.” “Activists’ attempts to link us to Bhopal are misguided and misdirected.”  The Indian government owns the plant site and all cases regarding Union Carbide are closed.  “If you would like to do something about this, I suggest that you get on a plane and fly to India.” “Go speak with the Indian government, as this is their problem.”  “If I get asked this question again, I will not be responding.”  (NOTE:  this is almost word-for-word the exact same response Caitlyn received when she posed a different question to Liveris last year)

 

Question 2

 

Q. Despite all the positives Dow likes to mention about last year’s Olympic sponsorship, you cannot deny that the backlash from our sponsorship created a public relations fiasco. There were massive protests in the UK, India, and the US. The Olympic Games Ethics Commissioner, Meredith Alexander, resigned on air over Dow’s sponsorship. A motion in March 2012 to terminate our Olympic sponsorship was only narrowly rejected in an 11-10 vote by the organizing committee, and Dow’s Olympic sponsorship made The Holmes Report’s list of the worst public relations crises of 2011.

 

We are going to be sponsoring the Olympics through 2020, so this is an issue that will not be going away soon. In a 2012 article in the Motley Fool, two proposals were made for how we could end the Bhopal tragedy.  The first being that we make a dilutive stock offering to raise money which could be committed to a Bhopal Relief fund, and the second being that we sponsor an Olympic fundraising campaign.  

 

This would not only help address the negative publicity we’ve received, but also show that we have decided to resolve an issue that has impacted our share prices ever since we acquired Union Carbide.

 

We bring up the Human Element a lot in our advertising, and yet our name is tainted.  People associate us with greenwashing, when what we could be doing is pursuing reasonable solutions such as these to end this ongoing tragedy. Why isn’t Dow considering options like this?

Fellow shareholders, if you are interested in seeing Dow Chemical pursue these options, please come speak with us out on the lawn.  We are interested in creating a shareholder’s resolution next year and would be interested in your support.

 

Liveris’ response:

 

“The Olympics have been a resounding success for your company. We have benefited beyond our expectations from our Olympic sponsorship.  We are committed to a sustainable Olympics. Green infrastructure is here!  We are excited to be partnering with the Nature Conservancy to ensure our facilities in Russia are linked to nature. What we are doing with the Olympics is good for the people of the world and I’m not going to apologize for that.”

                        

The Good: Midland residents came to shake our hands and thank us for being present. Some of them were familiar with Dow’s toxic legacy, leading back to Dow’s involvement in Vietnam with Agent Orange, and also the local contamination Dow has caused in Midland.  We received several “thumbs up” and waves from shareholders.  One shareholder who had a stockholder proposal on the meeting’s agenda included a shout-out to our group and the Bhopal disaster during his speech (which was seen on the livestream).  Residents and even the local security officers stopped to talk with us and learn more about our concerns.  We had great conversations with two shareholders who are also concerned about how Dow has been handling the Bhopal issue.

The Bad: We received some “thumbs down” and were told to go home. (As you can see, the good clearly outweighs the bad here!)

Check out the articles written up about the protest:

“Dow Chemical’s annual stockholders meeting prompts Bhopal gas leak protest in Midland” (Saginaw Daily News, Jessica Haynes)

 

“Bhopal protesters get same answers, different results at Dow Chemical shareholders meeting” (Saginaw Daily News, Jessica Haynes)

 

“Bhopal protesters seek resolution” (Midland Daily News, Tony Lascari)

 

“Protesters Target Dow Chemical’s AGM in Michigan, USA” (Bhopal Medical Appeal)

 

Looking Ahead:

 

If you want to know more, please email us! We are already planning our action for next year,  which will be in May of 2014. This will be the year leading up to the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster and we are looking to expand this action significantly. We have lots of ideas and are going to start planning early. We would love to have you on board, so please contact us if you have idea for actions or would like to join with us in bringing awareness to Dow’s toxic legacy.

We could not be more proud of how this action went!  If we were able to create this much of a buzz with only five people, imagine what next year could look like!

 
 
 
 

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Bhopal occupies the world: 27 years of campaigning for justice

By Swapna Kollu, ICJB Boston

December 3rd, 2011 marked 27 years since the night of the Bhopal Gas Disaster, which has since continued to escalate due to corporate negligence and government-bending by Union Carbide and its owner, Dow Chemicals.

2011 was also the year that Dow put another feather in its marketing cap by being an official sponsor of the London 2012 Olympics. However, due to the activists’ relentless zeal to expose Dow’s culture-washing, not to mention its toxic legacy in Bhopal and elsewhere around the world, many uncomfortable questions have been put forth to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). Among thousands opposing Dow's Sponorship are several prominent personalities, including members of the Indian and British parliaments, noted academic Noam Chomsky, and Olympians. A poll conducted by a London-based media outlet, The Guardian, showed that 91% of the general populace wanted Dow out of the Olympics. A Change.org petition asking LOCOG to drop Dow, initiated by Lorraine Close, has reached over 16,000 signatures.

Despite the depth and breadth of this fierce opposition, LOCOG refuses to drop Dow as a partner. The mounting pressure has, however, resulted in Dow dropping its logo from the stadium.

To commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster, events were held worldwide in solidarity with the survivors’ campaign.

View a slideshow of some of the events here.

Here are a few snippets:

  1. Bhopal, India: Unfortunately, the 27th anniversary observations at ground zero of the disaster were marked by incidences of police brutality against protesters who were holding a pre-announced train blockage, or "Rail Roko". They were demanding that the Central Indian Government publicly acknowledge accurate death figures, which its own agency had gathered, so that the Indian courts can mete out proper justice.

    Around 30,000 Bhopalis participated in the Rail Roko demonstration. On-the-ground videos demonstrate that police charged protesters, beating them with sticks. 60 people were reportedly injured in the violence, including a 17 year-old who was allegedly shot by the police. Police opened fire of real and rubber bullets on participants. The protestors retaliated by throwing stones, buring some motorcycles and media vans. A number of activists have been wrongly charged with attempt to murder, from elder women to youth. Although the Indian government continues to refuse to listen to the pleas of the Bhopalis and even resorts to trying to silence them, support for the Bhopalis continues to accumulate across the world.

  2. Boston, U.S.: Members of the Boston chapter for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) spoke about the disaster at Occupy Boston, drawing parallels between the struggle of the Bhopalis against Dow’s corporate power manipulating governments and the struggle of the 99% against unregulated corporate practices. They also screened the award-winning documentary “Bhopali” (2010), which describes the events leading to the disaster as well as its aftermath. Sanjay Verma, an activist and survivor from Bhopal, was present during both the events to discuss questions with people, urging people to continue to pressure the Olympic Committee to drop Dow as a partner.
  3. Amherst, U.S.: Volunteers in Amherst screened Bhopali. Sanjay Verma  engaged the audience in a passionate discussion trying to understand the issues through the eyes of a survivor. Most people in the audience signed the petition to drop Dow as the sponsor for 2012 Olympics in London.
  4. New York, U.S.: Members of ICJB and the Association for India’s Development (AID) screened the movie Bhopali, with Sanjay talking to the audience after the screening. Here, too, the response from attendees was warm and encouraging.
  5. Maine, U.S.: On December 3rd, 2011, a screening of the Bhopali documentary was organized at Colby College (in Maine) by the Colby chapter of Amnesty International, headed by Aquib Yacoob. Following the screening, attended by 15 students and a few faculty members, a question and answer session took place with Leonid Chindelevitch, an ICJB Advisory Board member. The Q&A session included a discussion of the roles of American and Indian governments, as well as the role of Michigan-based Dow Chemical, in the Bhopal disaster and its fall out. It also highlighted the power of individuals to make a difference in the struggle for corporate accountability globally, and the stuggle justice for Bhopal. At the end of the session, the attendees briefly Skyped with Sanjay Verma, a Bhopal survivor who lost 7 family members to the disaster and is a key figure in the documentary; he provided some recent updates from the ground. Sanjay concluded his message by asking everyone to spread the word about the Bhopal disaster.
  6. Maryland, U.S.: AID-College Park did outreach on Saturday, December 10th at the Student Union at the University of Maryland – College Park. Longtime AID elder Dr. Bhagat brought signs and photos from Bhopa. The group conducted outreach to students and families about the ongoing disaster, and advised people to: to avoid working for Dow; to let their friends know about the ongoing poisoning happening in Bhopal; and, the culture-washing truth story behind Dow's involvement in the 2012 Olympics.
  7. Austin, Texas, U.S.: Members of AID-Austin and ICJB staged a die-in to express their solidarity to the victims of the Bhopal gas disaster. They also requested people to sign the petition asking the Olympic committee to drop Dow Chemicals as a partner. In 2006, the Student Government and the Graduate Student Assembly passed a resolution calling on the University of Texas at Austin to refuse to accept funds received from Dow, but President William Powers Jr. did not sign it. Voulnteers highlighted this issue as well bringing to light the role a University can have in empowering the gas disaster victims.
  8. San Francisco, U.S.: On December 3rd, residents from the Bay Area assembled at the Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy. They staged a die-in to symbolically reflect on the thousands of victims of this corporate crime. Readings of Bhopalis' first-hand accounts of that tragic night were conducted as passersby halted at various moments taking note of the unique die-in using the Olympic rings as wreaths for the dead. This time around, activists demanded that Dow Chemicals be eliminated as the primary sponsor of the London Olympics in 2012. The protestors also gathered almost a 100 signatures to a petition that demanded Dow's ouster from the Olympics.
  9. Philadelphia, U.S.: Occupy Philadelphia participants protested at the Dow Chemical building to highlight issues ranging from experiments on prison inmates to the Bhopal gas tragedy. Approximately 30 protesters arrived at the Dow Chemical building adjacent to Independence Mall to demonstrate and hold a silence vigil for victims and the survivors, who continue to be affected by the corporations negligence. Issues such as Dow's involvement in developing Agent Orange and Napalm (chemical warfare used in Vietnam), as well as more local grievances including the illegal testing of chemicals on unsuspecting prison inmates at Holmesburg Prison, a local penetentiary in the city, were denounced by the protesters.
  10. Toronto, Canada: On the evening of 2nd December, Torontonians gathered together at the welcoming Bloor Street United Church to watch the film Bhopali. Co-presented by the church’s Social Justice Committee and Amnesty International’s Business & Human Rights Group (Toronto), the film produced some terrific discussion, led by Ellen Shifrin (ICJB Advisory Board) and Reena Shadaan, both of whom have volunteered in and for Bhopal for several years. The audience was eclectic, with people from various areas of concern, including Indigenous Rights, Palestinian issues, chemical health issues, and spiritual concerns. Three people who attended are currently in Bhopal, doing a two-week project using the arts as a basis for community work.  The group also held a moment of silence, in honor of the survivors.

    The following afternoon, on December 3rd, Occupy Toronto hosted a rally and march – Occupy the Climate. Because it was 3 December, the anniversary of the disaster, Ellen spoke; she outlined the disaster, and then read out the letter of support from the survivors’ organizations.  And while the focus was obviously on the climate, the speech was well received, and later several people personally thanked Ellen for bringing this to the event.

  11. Ediburgh, Scotland: Scottish Friends of Bhopal held a memorial and tribute to those who have died and those who remain to fight on in the legacy and aftermath of the disaster, a memorial plaque for the victims of Bhopal. The plaque was unveiled in Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh as part of a momentous occasion on the day of remembrance. The event began at The Quaker Meeting House, Victoria Terrace in Edinburgh before setting off on the short distance to Greyfriars Kirk. John Pinto, an attendee of the memorial, called it it “a moving and well-organised memorial at the historic cemetery of Greyfriars Kirk entrance.”

View a slideshow of some of the events on or around the anniversary.

Let’s hope that the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements of 2011 will galvanize the Bhopalis’ campaign in 2012 and bring Dow Chemicals and the Indian Government to clean up Bhopal.

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"Beat the bitches with lathis"Police brutally beat old ladies with cudgels

Mullo Bai, 65, gas affected and her mother Jamvati, 82

I left my house with my mother and 18 other women from my neighbourhood to be part of the rail roko. At 11:00 am we all reached Barkhedi crossing. We sat on the tracks for almost an hour and there were thousands of people all around us. We were all shouting slogans. There were lots of police and then a few female police started dragging women towards the blue police truck.

When police started dragging the women two men pleaded with the cops not to drag women like that. The police did not listen to anyone and must have dragged 3-4 women into the police vehicle. Then I saw total chaos break loose. There must have been 100 cops with lathis who just started to beat up women. They did not bother to see who they were hitting they continued with lathis and whoever came in their way got hurt. During all of this one of the police lathis hit me in my right eye and then came the second lathi which hit me in the back of my head. I saw blood coming out I realised that I had to leave and also had to get my mother out as she is very old and it would be hard for her to run.

I grabbed my mother’s hand and then my mother was hit by a police lathi on her head. My mother fell down and she was bleeding profusely. Her entire sari was covered with blood. There was so much blood and it seemed like someone had slaughtered a goat. Then three men came and they picked up my mother gave her some water and put her in an auto. I took her to the nearest private hospital (Mansi Hospital) and she got eight stitches. The hospital asked me for Rs 200 and I told them I had no money to pay them. I was so afraid that if my mother’s injuries were not looked at she just might die from excessive bleeding.

This hospital is situated on the main road and I saw many policemen running on the streets chasing men and even women with sticks. I pleaded with them to stop their violence. I asked them if they would kill us today by beating us. Then two policemen who were blocking our way let both of us leave. After walking 20 steps we were stopped by more policemen and they asked what had happened to us. I told them it was due to their lathis that my mother’s head was bleeding and I had a black eye and swelling on my face. Then the police sent me to the emergency vehicle for dressing of my wounds. I received two stitches on my head and I was asked to go home.

We must have reached home by 3:30 pm and for next two days we did not go to the government hospital. We have been scared that police are going to come pick us up and will take us to jail. We have been reading in the newspapers that police have filed charges against 1,500 people and they have been picking up men from their houses at night. We didn’t do anything to deserve such treatment. We had just gone to ask for our rights and we sat on the tracks peacefully. I did not even think that police would beat us so brutally.

Meena, 40

At around 10:30 am about 45 women from my neighbourhood left to join the Rail Roko agitation. We all reached the tracks by 11:20 am and there were many women laying on the tracks and we also laid down on the tracks. I was surrounded by many women and there were so many people that all men were sitting beside the track. I was sitting with all the women from my neighbourhood as well and we were also listening to slogan chanting happening on the PA system. Then police started asking us to leave the tracks and started dragging one of the women who was wearing blue clothes. They were dragging her into the police vehicle and while she was being dragged one of the police women kicked her as well.

I saw a young girl in black clothes was pulled and dragged by two female cops and put into the police vehicle. I continued to sit and so did everyone and when police asked us to leave we told them that we will not leave until our demands were met. Then all I could hear was sound of lathis around me and women around me being beaten up. I also got hit twice. A lot of women were running and I also started to run with them but then I fell. There was massive stone pelting happening from both sides. I cannot remember much, but I do remember that two young boys took me to the 108 emergency vehicle. Inside the vehicle there were 3 policemen. The nurse dressed me up and asked me to leave the vehicle. I could barely see because both of my eyes were swollen and I was in intense pain.

I started to walk and covered one eye with one hand as it hurt too much to keep it open. Then I saw one of my neighborhood women and I called her towards me. She could barely recognize me and it was them who brought me back in an auto. I have been so scared of the police that I did not even go to the government hospital to get any treatment. I can barely afford the private doctor but I have been paying him Rs 200 to come and visit the house every day so that he can give me injection for pain.

Tarabai

At 10.30 I reached there with about 20 women and lay down on the tracks. Some policemen said the photo session is over and now you can go – your work is over. We said we will not go. Bhaiyya was there. I saw smoke and heard a loud blast. After this the train blew its horn and put on its headlights. The women who were lying on the tracks got frightened and stood up. A policewoman with short hair told us not to shout slogans. The ADM came and told the police to drag the women and put them in the police vans. He then asked, who is your leader and we replied that we do not have any leader, we have come with our demands.

Poonam (60) hit on head

When Namdeo went a little further from us, the police hit Poonam who was sitting near me and is about 60 years, she was hit on the head with the baton. She started bleeding. Three women took her to the cabin. Then Basanti was hit on her hand. I told them to stop all this and also got hit on the hand. They hit Bibbo aged about 65, on the head; I saw blood and started feeling dizzy. They hit another woman who was with me on her legs. With all this, I panicked, at the same time stones started raining. Three or four boys came and surrounded us to rescue us from the lathis and took us away from there. From Aishbagh police station I again came back to the cabin. I took Poonam, Bibbo and Basanti to the No. 108, a madam was there and I told her these people are bleeding please give them some treatment. At the same time five policemen came with minor injuries nor were any of them bleeding, but they were the first to get attention. I asked the madam to put bandage on these old women, she told me to shut up.

Another policeman came who was hurt and he said “first put bandages on the mothers”. Then my nephew who is about 13 years came and said a bomb has gone off and a boy has been hurt in the leg. I started feeling sick and just sat down.

Namdeo

I reached near Aishbagh railway crossing at about 10.45. There already was a big crowd which had stopped one train. Tara Bai came and gave the banner. The women were sitting peacefully. The boys were shouting slogans. After that we talked with the ADM. He said that your symbolic protest is over; now get up from the tracks. I told him that our protest is indefinite, arrange a meeting with the CM, we will discuss the matter with him and then decide. Then the ADM reached out his hands to catch hold of me and all the women who were sitting on the tracks came and stood around me. The ADM said you people will not listen and then walked away. Then I went to the announcement auto where they were announcing that the protest is peaceful and will continue till the demands are met.

Then I went back to the tracks and Safreen came and told me that the police have snatched the mike along with the cord. I told we’ll see about that later. The media people came to me, the slogans continued. There was no inkling that there would be stone pelting. Then a sound came like a cracker bursting, I was standing near the engine, Rashida was near the gate. Somebody said that it was a bomb. People started getting up started shouting ‘Run’ ‘run’. I asked the women to keep sitting but they also shouted ‘run, run’. Some men and boys came near the engine and said that women are being beaten up. I asked the women who were near me to go and see what is happening. At that time there no fire anywhere. Women started to scream. I took some of the elderly women towards the road, took some 10-15 women and made them sit behind the bushes. I saw that the police were beating the women on the tracks with batons. After that the stone pelting started – from both sides, like rain. I then sent the women under the train. The policemen were picking up stones. I took the women from under the train towards Pul Boghda, to the temple and from there to the old ‘Galla Mandi’ and they went away. By that time the police were running on the road with batons, and were throwing tear gas. I waited with the women at the temple. I saw a vehicle on fire. After that Rachna called and said that we have to go and meet the CM, to meet her within 15 minutes. I then went through Barkhedi to Patra and from there to Dwarka Nagar.

I remember Monika Shukla saying “beat the bitches with lathis”

Safreen, 16

At 11.00 Nafiza and I along with Yashmeen and 3 other women reached Barkhedi gate and went to the tracks. We sat on the tracks for some time and then came to the auto. Yashmeen and I sat in the auto, Hazra had told us to be in the auto. Yashmeen was announcing, I went to the tracks and sat with the other women, both the gates of the level crossing opened. The police were telling the people to go away. We said we will not move. We saw Rashida Bee talking to the Collector and Hazra Bi speaking to one constable. Then Yashmeen came and said the mike has been snatched – she told this to Rashida Bee, she asked us to go back and she is coming. I then went to Hazra Bee, she was asking the men to go back, some of them were drunk (I can recognise two of them) Hazra Bee was keeping these men away from the women with a small stick. A man in civil dress, aged about 40, wearing white shirt with stripes came and started calling the police. Hazra was keeping the men away and so I called her back. The man in the striped shirt and other police men called the blue police van. Nafisa, Hazra and I felt that they were going to arrest, so we lay on the tracks and the other women also lay down. The man in the striped shirt pulled me; two women came and put me in the van. In the scuffle with the man in striped shirt, I lost my phone. Inside the van I told the police that my mobile has fallen please get it back. The police refused and they held my hand and made me stand up. They brought two more women and after that they brought Hazra Bee, asked her if she has my mobile and she replied no. Nafisa Bee was also brought to the van. I saw that the stoning had started and two police women were pushing Nafisa into the van. I said, Mummy come up inside, they are pelting stones, she came inside and the van started. The doors were open and I jumped out. Outside there was stoning. When I reached the tracks some women were near the engine. I searched for Yashmeen and the mobile; I went and sat with the women who were near the engine. Sitting there I could see that the stoning was from both sides. The women started to move from there. From the Aishbagh side people were throwing stones at the police. I was seeing this from the gate. I saw some people overturning a police vehicle. I saw a woman who was hurt on the head and was bleeding. A woman was taking her to the 108. Two media persons were saying that the police are being beaten up. Soon after I heard gun shots and every body shouted, they are firing. When coming from Barkhedi towards Aishbagh, I saw the police beating the people with batons and removing them from the tracks. I met Rashida Bee who was pacifying the women. She was asking everybody not to throw stones. I was also with her. The people asked us not to go further, we came towards the Aishbagh side of the gate and Aapa spoke to Satyu. When we reached the lane we saw boys running, they were saving themselves from the stones. Near the small bridge we met Shoaib, Naeem and Amir from Budhwara. Then all of us, Yashmeen, Shoaib, Naeem and Amir went searching for the mobile. When we reached the tracks there were lots of police near the gate and they did not allow us to go forward. We saw smoke coming from Barkhedi side and all of us came back to Rashida. We spoke to her about where to go and she told us that it is peaceful at all the other places and that we should go to Nishatpura, that Sathyu has been told. After this we reached Dwarka Nagar by walking on the tracks.

Rashida Bee

By 9:30 a.m. there were 5,000 people near the railway crossing. I got there about 9.45 a.m. just after the crowd had tried to stop the Punjab Mail. The SP (Superintendant of Police), TI and six police (4 male, 2 female) started trying to remove people. It wasn’t yet time and the crowd let the Punjab Mail go. I got there after the train had gone through. Lathis (long clubs) were being shown (brandished) but no one was being beaten. I went and lay down on the tracks.

It was 10:30 a.m. when I lay on the tracks – we were saying to the police that we would begin the action at 11 o’clock. Why were they waving their lathis at the public? The police would not allow our protest. They tried to pull me up.

Now there were more people. The goods train with the diesel tankers was seen coming from Pul Bogda side. The train continued coming forward blowing its horn. It was stopped before it reached the level crossing gate and then lots of police arrived. They came and stood near the train. It was 11.45; women kept coming and sat on the tracks. The police were saying start the train. The train started moving; there were at least 1,000 people. As soon as the train started, I lay down again and the train stopped. Two women constables picked me up and put me beside the tracks. All the women came towards the train and lay down on the tracks. There was Rahisa, women from Taufeekh Bagh, women belonging to BGNPBSM, women from the shanties along the railway track all came where I was being held by the police. Men, boys and children all came shouting “Hamme hamara haq chahiye – Sahi muawjaa chahiye”. “We want our rights – We want proper compensation”.

The railway crossing gate was open earlier but was brought down and closed. The Collector arrived; he was accompanied by the riot police numbering about 50 and two women constables. A man in plain clothes wearing white shirt came and said, come and talk to the Collector. I told him that I have seen the Collector and if he wants to say anything he will come here. He said you should go to the Collector. Then I stood up and shouted slogans. All during this time the train was hooting (its horn) continuously. Our auto with the mike was near the crossing gate. I went to the mike and announced, please do not blow the horn and frighten the people, people are sitting peacefully, blowing horn will frighten them, we want co-operation from the police, you are also gas affected. We are doing everything peacefully, you also maintain peace. After that I went amidst the women and asked everyone to sit down. I asked everybody to shout the same slogan. Somebody was shouting ‘Anna Hazare – zindabad.’

The Collector called me from the other side of the railway gate. I went and he said, get about 10 people and come and meet the Chief Minister. I replied that this is not something I can do individually; we will have to consult among ourselves. He said; take 10 people from here and come. I replied that we have been writing letters for the last 1 to 2 months but the CM did not give us any time. I will have to discuss this with the other organisations and any decision can be arrived at, only after that. The Collector asked me to call Rachna Dhingra. I asked for 10 minutes. I tried several times to call Rachna, but was not able to. Jamal Ayyub came and said to the Collector and to me that some journalist can be asked to contact Rachna. But that also did not happen. Jamal Ayyub said we cannot do this on our own. While all this was going on, the police surrounded us from two sides. During this time thousands of people were sitting on the tracks, from Pul Bogda to Barkhedi crossing. Then the police opened both the gates. They lifted the people by pulling their hair and the male police dragged the women on to the metal (stones) lying on the side of the tracks – Hazra, Nafisa, Baano Bi – four or five, women were hit by the police, they started bleeding. Some women went into the cabin near the tracks. Then the police started caning the boys. Many boys removed the women from the cabin and from the tracks, at this time the lathi charge by the police was going on. The public was running away. I fell down and some people ran over me. Then the public picked up stones, and it started raining stones. The police also started pelting stones. I told the people not to throw stones but nobody was listening. Stones were being pelted by both the public and the police. The police started to run towards Pul Bogda. Three or four vehicles of the police came with RAF jawans and burst tear gas without warning anyone.

I called Sathyu on the phone who said, Aapa somehow try to stop all this. On Sathyu’s advice I came in between the police and the public. By that time a white colour jeep was on fire. I then went towards the road and asked people with folded hands to maintain peace. Some boys stopped pelting stones. After that when I went to the gate and 50 to 60 women again came and sat on the tracks. The police started to fire from Pul Bogda side. Some of the boys in the crowd went towards the train and said they will set it to fire. I told them the whole bagh will be on fire. The boys said, put the Pulzar motorcycle under the goods train. But I intervened and somehow managed to turn them off. They stoned the rail engine and broke its window panes. The public scattered due to the firing. By that time more police had reached, and were pursuing people into the lanes and into homes and beating them up. I have seen all this. Then I got a call from Sathyu saying that we have to meet the CM. So I started walking on the tracks towards north. The riot continued behind me.

When the collector was talking with me, somebody burnt an effigy on the other side of the gate. There was a cracker in it. The collector told me that I am letting bombs go off. I told him it was just a cracker and went to the other side and managed to get some water and put the fire out. The Collector then said that I will not be able to manage the public and they will manage the situation. To which I told him that on 3rd December people usually burn effigies, he said you people will not understand.

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What is the value of an Indian life?

Do you know how much the US corporation had to pay to its victims in Bhopal? Can you guess? First look at what was paid in other disasters:


 

* In the Mangalore air disaster, compensation extended to an offer of employment for one family member

No one will forget the horror of September 11, 2001, when thousands of innocent people died in New York’s Twin Towers. The night of terror in Bhopal, where thousands died in horrible ways and more than half a million were injured, was no less horrific a human tragedy, but the value placed on the lives of two sets of innocent victims could hardly be in starker contrast.

The number of dead in New York was a tenth those who have died from gas-related injuries. Each American life was valued at more than a thousand times higher than a Bhopali life.

We don’t begrudge the families of the New York victims their compensation, nor are our people asking for anything remotely like the same amount, but the sum the Bhopal survivors were paid was a pittance by any standards.

The $494 they received, meant to last for the rest of their lives, hardly covered their medical bills in the first months. Over 27 years of suffering it comes to Rs 2.50 or 5¢ per day.

After Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide a Dow spokesperson commented that “$500 is plenty good for an Indian.”

Another way of looking at it


 

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Fair and adequate compensation

According to figures published by the Indian government’s apex medical research organization, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), at least 20,000 people had died by 2009 from injuries caused by the gas leak. ICMR’s research shows also that between 1984 and 1989 there were 3,500 spontaneous abortions as a result of gas exposure. These need to be taken into account. In the Curative Petition filed in the Supreme Court, the Indian government has ignored the findings of its own research agency and presented a ridiculously low figure of 5,295 deaths caused by the gas disaster.

Correcting the figures and fixing compensation

CHART I. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Compensation required based on 1991 payouts adjusted for inflation

The figures in this chart reflect the correct number of victims, drawn from the government’s own figures. Each is entitled to the payout given to the lower number of victims in 1991, and when those sums are adjusted for inflation from 1991-present, we get the figures that the government should be seeking in the Curative Petition.

CHART II. CLICK TO ENLARGE

How the correct figures were calculated

Asterisks and footnotes refer to figures given in Chart I above.

*Figures till 2009 including spontaneous abortions till 1989.

** Combined population (as per figures of 1984) currently with exposure induced illnesses in moderately and mildly affected areas less the number of exposure related deaths in these areas.

*** Population of severely affected area (as per figures of 1984) less number of deaths.

Categories not supported by ICMR’s decadal study

Note 1

Does not include injuries caused to next generation victims

Note 2

Figures of resident population of severely, moderately and mildly affected area (as per figures in 1984) based on ICMR’s decadal study on long term health impact

Note 3

Range of compensation

Note 4

Average of maximum and minimum compensation amounts

Note 5

Compensation payable in 2010 adjusted for inflation (increase in CPI= 4.88)

These figures do not include damage to the next generation of victims nor compensation for the contamination of water and consequent health injuries in communities of about 40,000 people.

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