Orphans of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster have formed their own organisation, Bhopal Ki Aawaaz, “the Voice of Bhopal”, to fight for the fulfilment of promises made to them, but never kept, by a long series of state dignitaries. At a press conference in Bhopal today, the orphans voiced their demand for proper employment and said they would launch an indefinite hunger strike from September 1st in support of their demand.
On 11th August 2004 Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation department informed the group of 18 orphans that their request for employment had been rejected. The orphans have been fighting for employment since 1993.
In July 2003 they staged a hunger fast without food or water, supported by then Opposition leader Babu Lal Gaur. Seven days after that fast, then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Digvijay Singh promised the orphans he would sanction a grant that would help them start their own small businesses. Given this promise and at the urging of the Chief Minister, they ended their waterless hunger fast. The promise was not honoured.
In Feburary, 2004, six months after the dishonoured promise, Bhopal Ki Aawaaz’s President Shahid Noor met new Chief Minister, Uma Bharti to ask her to honour the promise of her predecessor. Six months later the orphans were informed that their request had been rejected. They went to see their former supporter, Babu Lal Gaur, now Gas Relief Minister in the new state cabinet, but three meetings with him produced no results.
At the time of the gas disaster, the members of Bhopal Ki Aawaaz were aged between 6 months and 13 years. For years, while they were children, successive state governments treated them as mascots, trotting them in and out of public functions. In the last 19 years they have met 1 President, 2 Prime Ministers, 3 Governors, 4 Chief Ministers, 4 Ministers in Central Government, 3 Gas Relief Ministers and all of these officials made promises that they would be given jobs, but despite all these promises, the orphans are still unemployed or forced to work for really low wages. Members of Bhopal Ki Aawaaz appealed to other organizations working with victims of 1984 gas disaster to show solidarity by joining the indefinite hunger strike on September 1st.