Bhopal, November 27, 2007
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha
Bhopal Group for Information & Action
Announcing the 23rd Anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster as a “Black Day,” three organizations active on the issues of the Bhopal gas disaster said they will repeat their 800 km Padayatra in February 2008 to New Delhi to remind the Central Government of their unkept promises.
Abandoning any hopes they had of the State Government, the organisations said the march will pressure the Central government to make Dow Chemical Company accept its liabilities in Bhopal and for setting up a National Commission for long term relief and rehabilitation of the survivors.
The organizations will hold a torch rally on the evening of December 2, 2007 and a march to the Union Carbide factory during the day on December 3, 2007. Supporters of Bhopal survivors from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Tamilnadu and different parts of the world will be part of the Anniversary march. Survivors also plan to burn effigies of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical at the end of the march in front of the factory.
Last February, more than 55 survivors and their supporters walked to New Delhi and met the Prime Minister after a weeklong hunger strike. At that time, the Prime Minister promised to act promptly on providing clean water, health care, employment and social support and set up a coordination committee to oversee the implementation of these assurances. However, the State Government has failed to implement any of the recommendations of the Committee. The Centre too has shown no keenness to keep their word. Rather, documents obtained from the Prime Minister’s Office reveal that the Prime Minister is actively pushing a proposal to grant Dow Chemical immunity so that Dow and Union Carbide can invest freely in India.
The State and Central Government’s plans to help Dow Chemical on the issue of disposal of chemical wastes has run into trouble after the Gujarat Government withdrew its permission to burn the wastes in Ankleshwar, and the tender for transporting the waste elicited only one response — from a company that has no experience in transporting toxic wastes.
The State and Central Governments, in their enthusiasm to help Dow, will cause another Bhopal disaster through the unsafe handling of Carbide’s toxic wastes, the organisations feared.
Despite the Governments’ support, Dow Chemical has had a very rough year. Departing from its stance of last six years, Dow announced this year that it was prepared to clean up the toxic waste provided it is not made legally liable. After it was caught by a US Government agency for bribing Indian officials from the Central Insecticide Registration Board, the CBI commenced an investigation into the corruption scandal. Meanwhile, Dow’s efforts to win legitimacy by forging partnerships with the Indian Institute of Technology has run into rough weather after alumni, students and faculty from IITs at Kanpur, Kharagpur, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai rejected its overtures. IITians have called for barring Dow from even recruiting on campus.
The leaders of the three organizations — Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha and Bhopal Group for Information and Action — said Dow is being forced to clean up the Tittabawassee river in its hometown, Midland, Michigan. The company was found to be responsible for the widespread contamination of the River with dioxins and other hazardous chemicals. The organisations said it will not be long before Dow is forced to clean up Bhopal and pay compensation for health injuries and birth defects caused due to contamination from the Union Carbide factory.
Rashida Bi, Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, tel.94265 88215
Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, tel.93290 26319
Rachna Dhingra, Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, tel.98261 67369
Contact: House No. 60, Near Cold Storage, Union Carbide Road, Chhola, Bhopal