from Nishant in Delhi:
The biggest news today, to be taken with a generous pinch of salt, was the announcement by Gas Relief Minister Babulal Gaur. In a usual pompous fashion he proclaimed to have allocated 17 crores to provide clean drinking water from the Kolar Dam. It was not an official press release, nor a statement made in a press conference. Although a positive development and the first minor victory, the Bhopalis received it with the news with some skepticism.
First, it was the announcement of an additional 50 crores towards the
compensation, which was the money already owed by the government to RBI to cover for the exchange rate fluctuation. Now it is the provision of clean drinking water that Supreme Court had already decreed in May of 2004. It just gets to show how opportunistic the politicians are.
Particularly to notice here is that the announcement came 2 days before the visit by a 10 member fact finding team led by the Secretary of the Ministry of Chemicals (MOC), Ms. Satwant Reddy. This visit is being done in response to our meeting with the Ministry on March 29th. In any case, if past record is to be considered, Gaur is the last person to keep his promises.
So we received the news with, as Nity put it, ‘cautious optimism’, until we actually see a written statement or an official release from the Ministry or the MP government. A few Bhopalis will temporarily return tomorrow to assist the MOC fact finding team on issues of clean water and people’s participation in instituting a memorial.
Josh is continuing the fast and losing weight alarmingly. The health of Champa Didi and Rachna is deteriorating quickly. Champa Didi’s health in particular has become a real cause of concern. We are keeping a close watch. Everyone is on a diet of pure will now.
Almost everyday we have representatives from various groups to sit
on a solidarity fast. Yesterday, two members from National Conference for Dalit Organizations (NACOR) fasted, and today, 6 members from All India Federation of Trade Unions fasted for the entire day. A delegation of 11 also arrived from Cuddalore and Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. They are also victims of corporate crime and industrial pollution.
We will hear from the Prime Minister’s office tomorrow (Monday) morning for an appointment the same day. However, his volte face on Narmada issue today has set a negative tone already. However, we must and we will keep pushing.
To quote a favourite poet Nida Fazli – “safar mein dhuup to hogi jo chal sako to chalo, sabhi hain bheed mein tum bhi nikal sako to chalo.” Translation cannot do justice, but here goes. “The journey is long and arduous, can you muster the courage to keep walking, there are thousands already walking against you, can you still find space to reach your destination…”