Govt handling of Bhopal: Blot on Indian Democracy, 224 Indian groups tell PM

PRESS RELEASE
19 June 2008, New Delhi
New Delhi: Terming the Government’s inaction on the demands of the Bhopal victims as a ‘blot on Indian democracy,’ 224 organisations, including trade unions, people’s struggles, NGOs and national alliances, from 19 states across the country wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister demanding immediate resolution of the Bhopal issues. Blaming the Government’s silence for pushing 9 Bhopal victims and their supporters to launch an indefinite hunger strike starting 10 June, the organizations said: “We are concerned for the health of the people who have begun an indefinite fast. In particular, we are concerned about the well-being of those among the hunger strikers who have already been affected by Union Carbide’s poisons.” All but two of the hunger strikers are directly affected by the poisonous gas, contaminated water or both.
The open letter to the PM follows a series of high profile actions as indignation rises across the country and overseas on the failure of the UPA Government to act on its promises. Till date, nearly 300 people from 11 countries have already signed up on www.bhopal.net to fast for a day or longer in solidarity with the Bhopalis. Bhopal supporters, particularly NRIs have protested outside the Indian embassies in Toronto, Boston, San Francisco and Houston. Sixteen US Congresspersons have written a strong letter urging the Prime Minister to set up a Commission for rehabilitation and to aggressively pursue the American corporations for their crimes in India. The US parliamentarians are joined by 19 Indian MPs from six political parties and 81 British MPs, Scottish legislators, more than 100 artists and eminent writers, and 67 international organizations including 17 NRI groups that have written to the Prime Minister urging him to resolve the Bhopal demands. Separately, nearly 5200 faxes have been sent to the PMO.
Addressing a press conference today, Bhopal organizations were joined by Justice Rajindar Sachar and Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy of JNU, who said that the Government has to explain why it is hesitating to take legal action against Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. “Why are Union Carbide, Dow Chemical and Warren Anderson being treated differently from any other person accused of a crime?” they asked. They said the Government’s silence on the repeated petitions and letters from and on behalf of the Bhopal survivors leads one to conclude that the Government does not care about the Bhopal survivors.
Countering claims by sections of the Government that existing monitoring committees obviate the need for an empowered Commission, Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information and Action pointed out that even the Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on medical rehabilitation has sought empowered status as it is unable to enforce its directions. Also, with the Group of Ministers endorsing the demand for a Commission, it is unclear as to why the Government has not yet acted on the demand for a Commission, the Bhopal organizations said. They said the Prime Minister’s Office was acting with malafide intent in dealing with Right to Information requests. Applications filed by a hunger striker under the special life and liberty clause has failed to elicit a response from the PMO, even as information sought under applications filed as early as April 16 are still awaited.
For more information:
Satinath Sarangi at 9717516003 or Shalini Sharma at 9891442037

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