INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR JUSTICE IN BHOPAL, NOVEMBER 8, 2006
November 8, 2006. MUMBAI — More than 200 Bhopalis chained themselves to the entrance of the Grand Intercontinental where India’s largest chemical industry trade fair was inaugurated today. Even as the Government laid out the red carpet to the global chemical industry, survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster warned chemical companies that they will find India a very hostile place to do business. “No Justice; No Business,” the Bhopalis shouted specifically targeting Dow Chemical, the US multinational that now owns Union Carbide. One slogan belted out by the women-led gathering clearly laid out the fate facing chemical companies: “Peddlers of poison will be beaten with shoes.” Survivors have said that Dow Chemical’s worst financial year has now begun.
The high-profile trade event which featured a special address by Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers Ram Vilas Paswan was thrown off schedule by more than two hours, even as organizers frantically ran around to do damage control. Mr. Paswan, who met the protesting survivors, after addressing the Indiachem gathering expressed his disappointment at the failure of the Madhya Pradesh Government to fulfill the basic demands relating to drinking water, and medical and economic rehabilitation. In April 2006, Bhopalis who undertook an 800 km walk to New Delhi and camped out on the streets for more than 15 days finally won a commitment from the Prime Minister on clean water, and medical and economic rehabilitation. Mr. Paswan told the Bhopalis that he has already written to the Human Resources Ministry regarding inclusion of the story of the Union Carbide disaster in educational curriculum, and to the Home Ministry regarding earmarking December 3 Bhopal anniversary as a national day of mourning.
Mr. Paswan reiterated the Government’s commitment, but was reminded of the lack of progress since April. He said the Central Government has released Rs. 14 crores for water, and will write to the Madhya Pradesh Government to enquire about the lack of progress. Mr. Paswan also agreed to survivors’ demand that people affected by consuming contaminated water should also receive free medical treatment.
More than 20,000 Bhopalis, including gas victims, are being forced to consume groundwater contaminated by poisons leaching out of Union Carbide’s toxic waste dumps. Dow Chemical, which has launched a multimillion dollar advertising blitz to shore up its credentials and green its image, has steadfastly refused to pay for cleaning up the aquifers. The Minister, however, said he agreed with the recommendations of the Technical Sub-committee of the Task Force set up by the Jabalpur High Court on the matter of toxic waste clean-up in Bhopal. The Sub-committee has recommended that Dow Chemical should be made to clean-up the wastes and repatriate it to the United States for treatment and disposal. Mr. Paswan also said he would write to the Ministry of Agriculture to enquire how Dow’s pesticide Dursban, which is barred for domestic use, has been permitted for general use in India.
The US industry has made no bones about its displeasure over the lingering legacy in Bhopal. In fact, the US-India CEO Forum, which has become an extra-constitutional policy advisory body for the UPA Government, has identified the need for speedy arbitrated settlements for future liabilities like the Bhopal disaster as a pre-condition for attracting investments in India. The Prime Minister has reportedly set up a Task Force within the Planning Commission to follow up on this recommendation.
Bhopal survivors are incensed at the insensitivity of the Government in inviting more chemical industries while liabilities surrounding the world’s worst industrial disaster remain unresolved. Addressing a press conference two days prior to the trade fair, Bhopal survivors and representatives from pollution impacted communities in Cuddalore (Tamilnadu), Patancheru (Andhra Pradesh), and Gujarat highlighted the numerous locations within India that were suffering from very similar problems – poisoned groundwater; widespread ill-health due to air and water pollution; a devastated local economy due to industrial pollution; lack of access to medical services; absence of medical monitoring and research; and business-as-usual for the polluters.
Bhopal ki Aawaaz
Bhopal Group for Information & Action
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
For more information, contact: Rachna Dhingra: +91 9967384492 or Nityanand Jayaraman: +91 9444082401