TIMES OF INDIA
NEW DELHI: They came together, they broke their fast together. But if the Narmada Bachao Andolan activists were despondent, Bhopal gas victims sitting here on hunger-strike had some reason to cheer.
On Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally broke his silence, met them and assured speedy work on three major demands — a clean-up of the contaminated site, clean water and a commission to execute medical and economic rehabilitation schemes.
Happy with some progress, they called off their fast. But they are upset with the implication of the PM rejecting their demand that Union Carbide’s successor, Dow Chemical, be held accountable and its products be banned here.
He reportedly told them that he couldn’t promise to hold the corporation accountable. He said the country has to do business and that India has to survive despite such tragedies, said Bhopal campaigner Nityanand Jayaraman.
Activists now plan to launch an international campaign against Dow, through direct and legal action. After making them wait a long time, the PM finally met a 10-member delegation for about half an hour on Monday.
Activists say a ministry of chemicals team will leave for Bhopal on Tuesday to begin spadework on the clean-up and safe water supply. There is no timeframe but activists hope that this time round, they will get a real clean-up.
The state government seems to be moving on a fourth demand, a memorial. What sticks in their throat, however, is the PM’s “open admission that he is unable to hold the corporation accountable”. Two decades later, they are still no closer to this goal.