PRESS UPDATE 30 March, 2006
A delegation of Bhopal survivors and supporters that met the Secretary and Minister at Ministry of Chemicals in two separate meetings yesterday described both meetings as “positive.” The Ministry, which holds overall responsibility of the well-being of the Bhopal survivors, had reviewed the six demands placed by the Bhopalis and noted action points, clarifications and action taken on each of the demands.
1. Clean Water: Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers, said Ms. Satwant Reddy, Secretary, will visit Bhopal on April 19 to meet the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and the Secretary (Planning) to discuss the status of the pipeline project and the obstacles standing in the way of its implementation. He also said that the Madhya Pradesh Government’s application for funds to the Planning Commission would be reviewed, and resubmitted with a recommendation from the Ministry.
2. Clean Up: Ms. Reddy said that they have already submitted an application in the MP High Court asking Dow Chemicals to deposit Rs 100 crores for the Clean up of the contaminated site. She mentioned that Dow Chemical had met the Ministry a “while back.” According to the Secretary, Dow Chemical is reluctant to clean up the Bhopal contamination only because it would set a bad precedent, and would make it vulnerable to liabilities in other parts of the world. Ms. Reddy’s other suggestions indicate that Dow may be willing to do something about it. This is the first admission of responsibility by Dow Chemical ever since it took over Union Carbide in February 2001. Ms. Reddy also suggested that she could explore to see if Dow would be willing to do something on a humanitarian basis, if not on through legal means.
During the evening meeting with Mr. Paswan, the Minister, indicated scepticism of human intervention, and said that the Ministry will explore legal means, including by impleading Dow Chemical’s Indian subsidiaries and businesses.
3. Criminal Liability: The Ministry said that the Ministry of External Affairs had already written to the Central Bureau of Investigation directing the agency to revise and reissue the request for extradition of Warren Anderson.
4. National Commission on Bhopal: The Ministry wholeheartedly agreed with the need for an empowered coordinate body with long-term financial security to coordinate the implementation of medical and economic rehabilitation programs. The Minister said that the Ministry would support this demand by recommending the constitution of such a body urgently to the Prime Minister.
5. Curbing Dow’s business in India, and banning its toxic pesticide Dursban: The Ministry indicated that Dow’s investments in India are the subject matter of the Department of Industrial Promotion, and Department of Commerce, and that the matter should be taken up with them. On the matter of Dursban, the Ministry has requested a detailed submission that they can forward to the Ministry of Agriculture and follow up with other relevant authorities.
6. Remembering Bhopal: The Ministry said it had already written to the Ministry of Human Resources Development recommending that Bhopal be included in the educational curricula of schools and colleges. He also said that the Secretary would take up the matter of the Bhopal memorial with the Madhya Pradesh Government when it meets them on April 18.
Despite an assurance by the Prime Minister’s Office of a meeting with the Bhopal marchers before 31 March, no such appointment has been granted till date. If they fail to get a meeting with the PM by 31 March, at least 10 Bhopalis plan to launch an indefinite hunger strike to underline their resolve to get the six demands met.
Rashida Bee/Champa Devi, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh • Syed M. Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha • Shahid Noor, Bhopal Ki Aawaaz • Satinath Sarangi/Rachna Dhingra: Bhopal Group for Inforamtion and Action
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