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MUMBAI, 6th May, 2006 — Students and faculty members of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences today expressed their solidarity with the continuing struggles of people affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam and the Bhopal gas survivors, when the Prime Minister Mr Manmohan Singh inaugurated the “Jamsetji Tata Centre for Disaster Management” at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. During the convocation ceremony for TISS graduates held today, students handed over two separate memorandums to the Prime Minister highlighting the concerns and demands of the survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy and of families affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam. The students wore badges in support of the movements and black bands to protest the indifference shown by the Prime Minister and his Government, especially in taking decisions that affected the interests of private corporations or the elite.
On April 17, the Prime Minister met Bhopal activists in New Delhi and conceded to four out of six demands. However, he said he was powerless to pressure Union Carbide or its new owner Dow Chemical to make them address their pending liabilities in Bhopal. He told the Bhopal delegation that “We have to do business. India has to survive despite these tragedies.” While the Bhopalis ended their hunger strike based on the Prime Minister’s assurances of clean water, clean up of contamination and the setting up of a national commission to coordinate medical and economic rehabilitation, they also launched an international campaign to hold Dow and Carbide accountable. The memorandum to the Prime Minister demanded that the Government should show more courage and commitment in bringing Union Carbide to justice. “We are ashamed to learn that the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy is powerless to bring a multinational corporation to justice. This bodes ill for the country as it launches into a feverish pace of industrialisation,” said Charu Jain, a TISS graduate.
Condemning the anti-poor stance of the UPA Government in dealing with oustees of the controversial Narmada dam project, Aruna Pandey , a student said “Development that uproots people, impoverishes them and destroys their culture is called colonization. The Government’s proposal to pay cash compensation to oustees does nothing to address land and livelihood concerns.” Signatories to the Memorandum expressed outrage at the lack of efforts for adequate resettlement and rehabilitation of project affected population by the Governments in Narmada valley. The memorandum has called for the suspension of construction of the dam until the Supreme Court hearing on May 8th 2006 and the setting up of an independent mechanism for monitoring the rehabilitation situation; it also highlights the demand for the formulation of a comprehensive National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act. The memorandum also urges the Government to address the concerns of other poor people being evicted to accommodate industry or in the name of urban beautification.
For further information, please contact:
Aruna Pandey (Narmada): 9322922549
Ruchi Sankrit (Bhopal): 9819373795
LH1, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Deonar, Mumbai
Visit: www.bhopal.net/blog_pr/, www.studentsforbhopal.org, www.narmada.org