Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
Bhopal ki Awaaz
17 April, 2006.
New Delhi — Bhopalis today celebrated a major victory and called off their international hunger strike as the Government conceded to four of six long-standing demands of the Bhopal campaign. The Prime Minister assured a 10-member delegation consisting of Union Carbide’s victims and supporters who met him today for 30 minutes that the demands relating to clean water, clean-up of toxic wastes, and the setting up of a national commission for medical and economic rehabilitation will be met. The Bhopalis will end their dharna today on a note of solidarity with the Narmada struggle. Separately, the Madhya Pradesh Government announced the allotment of Rs. 100 crores for the construction of a memorial in Bhopal, and Bhopalis have been told that the story of the Bhopal disaster will be included in educational curricula developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training. Three Bhopal activists will leave immediately for Bhopal to accompany a high-level team led by Secretary, Ministry of Chemicals, to finalise details regarding provision of safe water and the participation of survivors in the construction of a memorial in Bhopal.
The Prime Minister, however, said he was powerless to take any extra-legal measures to hold Union Carbide or its owner Dow Chemical accountable. “I don’t promise to prosecute. We have to do business. India has to survive despite these tragedies,” Mr. Manmohan Singh said in response to a demand by survivors that Union Carbide and Dow Chemical should be held liable for the continuing disaster in Bhopal. Mr. Singh, however, said he would explore whatever options existed within the law to hold the company accountable.
“We are ashamed and outraged that the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy has openly admitted to his inability to pressure an American multinational. At a time when India is set to more than double its industrial capacity, the Prime Minister’s reluctance to take extra-legal measures to pressure multinational corporations is deplorable and should set the alarm bells ringing,” said Satinath Sarangi, one of the six hunger strikers and 39 people who walked from Bhopal to New Delhi. “It doesn”t make any sense to direct our protests on the matter of corporate accountability towards a man who has expressed his powerlessness on this matter.”
The Bhopal campaigners have, therefore, resolved to take direct and legal action against Dow and Union Carbide’s businesses nationally and internationally over the coming months. “Dow should beware now because all our energies will be focused on putting the brakes on Dow’s business in India,” said Champa Devi Shukla, Goldman award winner and one of the indefinite hunger strikers.
Josh Imeson and Diane Wilson, both of whom have been fasting in solidarity with the survivors, have also been requested to call off their fast by the Bhopalis. Diane Wilson, a long-time Bhopal supporter, is on the fourth day of her indefinite fast in the United States. International support for the campaign has brought tremendous pressure to bear on the Government. The Prime Minister”s office has received nearly 3,000 faxes and more than 400 people have signed up to fast for a day or longer in solidarity with the Bhopal campaign.
Thirty-nine victims of Union Carbide’s poisons, and eight survivors covered 800 km in 33 days to arrive in New Delhi on 25 March, 2006. Since 29 March, 2006, Bhopal survivors and supporters had been on indefinite strike near the Parliament House in New Delhi. On 11 April, six people, including three victims and three supporters, began an indefinite fast, in which they were joined by Diane Wilson from the US starting 13 April.
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