Major trade unions extend their support to the Bhopal activists on hunger strike and pledge to take up the matter with the Prime Minister tomorrow.

New Delhi, June 22, 2004:With just seven days left for the Union Government to send a positive communication to the US District Court in the Bhopal contamination clean up case , several major trade unions of India have decided to swing into action. They have pledged to raise this matter with the Prime Minister of India in a meeting tomorrow. The trade unions which extend their solidarity include Hind Mazdoor Sabha [HMS], All India Federation of Trade Unions [AIFTU], National Trade Union Initiative [NTUI], All India Agricultural Workers Union [AIAWU], All India Central Council of Trade Unions [AACCTU], All India Agricultural Labour Association [AIALA], National Federation of Indian Women [NFIW] of All India Trade Union Congress [AITUC].

“This is a matter of utmost importance. By sending this communication to the US Court, the government has everything to gain and nothing to lose”, felt the trade union representatives, referring to the enormous costs involved in the clean up, as well as the technological expertise required for remediation of the site.

This morning, the three hunger strikers, Ms Rasheeda Bi, Mr Shahid Noor and Mr Satinath Sarangi, who are in the fifth day of their indefinite fast to press the Indian government to act immediately, addressed representatives of various trade unions and appraised them about the inaction by the Indian government.

“After the meeting with the trade union representatives, it was heartening to see that many like-minded groups believe that this letter to the US Court should have been sent by the Indian government by now. The contaminated communities have suffered for many years now and the toxic mess needs to be cleaned up immediately. Given that this is a unique opportunity to get the polluter to pay, it is inexplicable why the Indian government should delay sending this letter’, remarked Shahid Noor who has been on a fast since June 18th. Shahid was orphaned by the gas leak in 1984 and heads an organisation of people orphaned by the disaster called Bhopal ki Awaaz.

The delegation of Bhopal activists also met with Mr Oscar Fernandes who assured them that he had written to all three ministries concerned, Law, Environment and Chemicals & Fertilisers, requesting them to act in time. Others who spoke with the hunger strikers and extended support today included M C Mehta, Goldman Prize Winner and Amarjeet Kaur of All India Trade Union Congress. At the time of filing of this update, the Law Ministry officials had not yet drafted any communication clarifying their stand.

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You can also contact the following persons or numbers for more information:

Ms Rasheeda Bi, Mr Shahid Noor and Mr Satinath Sarangi, the three hungerstrikers on the following mobile numbers: +91-98-102-02105 or +91-755-3132298; Ms Anuradha Saibaba on + 91-98-119 -03172 or Ms Vinuta Gopal on +91-98-455-35418 or Ms Kavitha Kuruganti on +91-80-36882103

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1. On March 17th 2004, a New York District Court provided a unique opportunity to clean up of toxic contamination in and around the Union Carbide factory premises, by ruling that if the Indian government or Madhya Pradesh government urges the US Court to order such relief before June 30th 2004, then the lower court can order Union Carbide to clean up the abandoned factory site and its surroundings. This is in the Sajida Bano et al vs Union Carbide and Warren Anderson case.
Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India. Campaigners remain quietly hopeful that his new government will act to end the suffering of thousands of Bhopalis

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