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I won’t pay a penny to Bhopal gas attack victims

Our thanks to Shobhan Saxena, for sending us this piece he wrote for his column in The Times of India. –––––––––––––

Because the line between democracy and manipulation is very thin, at times it becomes blurred. Today, this line dissolved completely as the Group of Ministers (GoM) reportedly recommended a number of steps to cool down the public anger over the last week’s ridiculous judgment in the Bhopal gas disaster case. The recommendations, according to reports, are: Compensation to the tune of Rs 10 lakh for the families of those killed in this crime; Rs 5 lakh for those crippled for life; and Rs 3 lakh for people with partial disability. On the issue of cleaning up tonnes of toxic waste buried at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, the GoM is believed to have recommended that the Madhya Pradesh government would do the dirty job with financial help from the Centre. And on the issue of Warren Anderson, the group has decided to make a “valiant attempt” to get the criminal-in-chief extradited from US to India.

If the recent Bhopal judgment was shameful, the GoM recommendations are outrageous. Now, the betrayal of Bhopal, and India, is complete.

With the Central government planning to set aside Rs 1,500 crore for compensation to Bhopal victims – 25,000 dead and 500,000 crippled and two generations poisoned forever – it’s now clear that the government of this country is going to rob Peter to pay Paul. This money will be taken from our – the Indian taxpayers’ – pocket and given to the Bhopal victims. The money for the clean up of toxic chemicals, which have been poisoning Bhopal’s air, soil, water and even the city’s soul, will also come from our pockets. In one stroke, home minister P Chidambaram-led GoM has given a clean chit to Union Carbide and its successor Dow Chemicals. Now, these corporations don’t have to worry about paying any money to the victims of the world’s worst ever industrial accident, which happened because the Union Carbide dumped outdated technology in the heart of Bhopal, paid no attention to its maintenance, ignored warnings about gas leakage, cut funds and staff at the cost of safety and gave itself a clean chit even as bodies of poor Indians were piling up at the cremations grounds and graveyards of Bhopal in December 1984. So, when poor Indians die because of actions of a rich American corporation, it’s the poor Indians who bear the burden of destruction. And the government pretends that it cares for the people.

Now, it seems the government of this country is more loyal to American corporations than the people of this poor, wretched country. What could be the reasons for this shameful behaviour? Is it because of the government’s fear that prosecution of American companies in India will vitiate the investment climate in this country? Or is it because of the fact that Dow Chemicals has paid enough money in bribes to powerful people in India to make sure that it doesn’t have to pay any compensation anymore. A shocking report in a magazine this week said that Dow Chemicals was “penalised by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, for paying $200,000 in bribes to Indian officials to fast-track the registration of their controversial pesticide Dursban (which it sells for residential use in India though it is banned everywhere else).” Dow got out of this trouble by paying $325,000 as penalty to the American SEC.

The government of this country has remained silent on this bribery issue. It has also remained silent on various commitments it made to courts and people of this country:

— On June 28th, 2004, the Indian government wrote to a New York court that as per the ‘polluter pays’ principle recognized by both the US and India, “Union Carbide should bear all of the financial burden and cost for the purpose of environmental clean-up and remediation. The Union of India and the State Government of Madhya Pradesh shall not bear any financial burden for this purpose.”

— On February 2, 2008, the Ministry of Law told the Prime Minister’s Office that irrespective of the manner in which UCC (Union Carbide Corporation) has merged or has been acquired by Dow Chemical, if there is any legal liability it would have to be borne by Dow Chemical.”

The GoM recommendations completely violate these commitments. The UCC and Dow Chemicals have been freed of all the liability. The financial burden has been dumped on the poor Indian taxpayer. Why on earth should we pay for the crime of Union Carbide? Why should UC officials — in India and US — be allowed to go scot-free?

The Bhopal case is not just about compensation and money. It’s also about justice. It’s also about all the liability issues that may arise in the future. With today’s decision, Chidambaram’s GoM has told the foreign MNCs that India’s investment climate is good – come here, mint money, exploit people, kill them if you wish and we guarantee that you will have no liabilities – financial, legal and criminal.

This is a slap on the face of all those people who have been fighting for justice for Bhopal for the past 26 years. It’s an insult to the memory of those who lost their lives in this crime. It’s also an insult to those poor people who have knocked at the doors of the government, judiciary and big corporations in order to get justice. It’s a challenge to those who still believe in the idea of India despite the travesty of justice in this country everyday.

This money for compensation as well as for the clean up of UC plant at Bhopal must be recovered from Union Carbide’s successor Dow Chemicals. I don’t want to pay a penny to Bhopal victims from my pocket. I am not a penny-pinching sucker, but I refuse to be part of this second gas attack on the people of Bhopal. I refuse to accept the government’s squandering of public money as private funds. I refuse to be part of this charade in the name of democracy, which is being reduced to manipulating people’s emotions in this country.

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Prime Minister, did it hurt when they took out your eyes?

They must be gone because things that appal the rest of us, you seem not to see. You are blind to the agonies of 100,000 people who are still sick in Bhopal 25 years after Union Carbide’s gases leaked there.

Blind to report after report recording the presence of pesticides and heavy metals in soil and water, and blood, in wombs, and mother’s milk.

Blind to the children born blind, lame, limbs twisted or missing, deafmute, brain-damaged, with cleft-lips, cleft palates, web fingers, cerebral palsy, tumours where should be eyes – the children of Bhopal. The living children. The stillborn often can’t be recognised as human.

You are blind to the Supreme Court order to provide clean water and the failure of officials to obey it. MP Chief Minister Babulal Gaur said there was no money for clean water, then unveiled a 600 crore plan to beautify Bhopal with ornamental fountains.

Where were you when Bhopali women brought their damaged children to your house? You had them arrested. The policewomen who led them away wept, but your blind eyes did not.

When they came to your office to protest, did you shut your curtains and say to yourself, ‘I am the Prime Minister of India. I do not have to see police kicking and beating children.’

Why are you blind to promises you made after the Bhopalis walked to Delhi in 2006 and 2008? Where is the Empowered Commission on Bhopal? When will you take steps against Dow Chemical, the owner of Union Carbide?

Why are you blind to the note from India’s justice ministry, holding Dow Chemical liable for contaminating Bhopal? And for paying for a clean-up?
Why are you blind to Dow’s admitted bribery of Indian government officials?

You have proved yourself blind to justice, blind to honour, blind to decency, and to the suffering of the poor whom your high office binds you to protect.

Blind in to everything but foreign dollars?

Prime Minister, can we get our eyes removed too? Because it is becoming extremely difficult to see you ignore the truth and tell us, everything’s ok.

Brilliant postcard campaign developed by Hemant Jain. If you would like a batch of postcards to send to the Prime Minister of India, please email us.

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"Right to Live" dharna: parents of babies born malformed due to Carbide's poisons demand the children should receive free medical care

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
Bhopal Ki Aaawaaz

February 25, 2007
PRESS STATEMENT
At a press conference in Bhopal today, parents of 14 children born with congenital abnormalities attributable to exposure to Union Carbide’s poisons demanded free medical care for their children and monthly pension of at least Rs. 1000 per month from the state government. 10 of these children had been successfully treated by the Chingari Trust set up by Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla, leaders of survivors organisations sitting on dharna for the last five days demanding medical care, economic and social rehabilitation and protection from Union Carbide’s poisons from the state government.
Chromosomal aberrations have been found among the people exposed to Union Carbide’s toxic gases giving rise to apprehensions of birth defects among children of gas exposed parents. Several scientific studies by government and non-government agencies have confirmed the presence of several birth defect causing pesticides, chemicals and heavy metals in the ground water in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory.
Studies by the MP Pollution Control Board have shown that pesticides such as endrin, dieldrin, carbaryl, methoxychlor and others that can cause birth defects are present in the ground water samples collected from the area. International environmental organization Greenpeace reported finding tetra-, penta- and hexa- chlorobenzene as well as lead and mercury in soil and ground water samples, all of which can cause birth defects.
The Chingari Trust was set up with a fund of Rs 56 lakhs that Rashida Bee and Champa Devi received with the Goldman Environment Prize awarded to them in 2004 for leading the campaign of the survivors of the Union Carbide disaster. Last year the Trust identified 100 children with different kinds of birth defects in the gas and contaminated ground water exposed affected communities. 65 of these children were seen by medical specialists from New Delhi and Bhopal at a health camp in December 2006.
The specialists found that an unusually large number of children suffered from cerebral palsy that causes total disability. The doctors also found children with cleft lip and missing palate and with disabilities related to vision, hearing and mental functions. According to them a large number of these children could significantly benefit from surgical treatment and counseling.
Rashida Bee and Champa Devi have so far organized treatment for 10 children with limb deformities, cleft lips and missing palates in New Delhi and Bhopal. Last month they apprised the Minister of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation about the findings of the health camp and have urged the state government to arrange for medical treatment of children born with malformations due to Union Carbide’s poisons.
The four organisations that are determined to continue with their dharna till the state government concedes to the demands of their “Right to Life” campaign have called for medical treatment of children with congenital malformations and monthly pensions to their families. They are also demanding monthly pensions for women who were widowed by the disaster, persons who are too sick to earn a livelihood, survivor families living below the poverty line and those above 60 years with no family to depend on.
Rashida Bi, Champa Devi Shukla
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
94256 88215
Syed M Irfan,
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
93290 26319
Shahid Noor
Bhopal ki Aawaaz
98261 82226
Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
98261 67369
Contact : House No. 60, Near Cold Storage, Union Carbide Road, Chhola, Bhopal
Please visit www.bhopal.net for more information on the campaign for justice in Bhopal

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Private clinics mushroom in gas-hit Bhopal: Gas-hit areas in the Madhya Pradesh capital have seen a sharp rise in the number of private medical practitioners in the past two decades

IndiaPRwire, October 10, 2006
Gas-hit areas in the Madhya Pradesh capital have seen a sharp rise in the number of private medical practitioners in the past two decades.
Over 3,000 people were killed when 40 tonnes of lethal MIC gas leaked out of Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in December 1984. To this day, residents exposed to the lethal gas have been suffering from respiratory and other ailments.
The number of private nursing homes and clinics in gas-hit areas has shot up from 60 to 260 in just two decades. The costly treatments have drained the victims of the gas tragedy both economically and emotionally.
‘The compensation of Rs.50,000 each for the gas victims is little when compared to their huge medical bills,’ says Abdul Jabbar, an activist, and convenor of THEpal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan.
Mohan Lal, 42, has been suffering from respiratory disorders for over 22 years.
‘It’s been so many years, but it looks we’ll never get well again.’
Lal used to earn Rs.6,000 a month by selling spices till the tragedy struck. But it is difficult for him to perform physical labour now. He has sold his two ancestral homes for Rs.350,000 to sustain his family of five.
‘All the money goes into paying medical bills. Still we do not keep well,’ he rued.
There are thousands who are suffering like Mohan Lal.
The ‘irrational’ course of treatment has been condemned by activists. Apart from the respiratory system, neurological, reproductive and immune systems of the gas victims have also been affected. Cases of tuberculosis here are four times higher than the national average.
To add to their woes victims have been plagued by widespread corruption.
More than 70 percent of government doctors serving them have clinics of their own. And the patients are encouraged to see the doctors at their clinics, a report on the gas victims points out.
‘In 1996, International Medical Commission on Bhopal charged Union Carbide with concealing information on chemicals that leaked. Even now many synergistic health impacts of the toxic gases are not known,’ claims Satinath Sarangi, an activist who runs Sambhavna Clinic for the victims.
A Fact Finding Mission report released on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the tragedy also pointed out that in 72 percent cases patients are being given useless or harmful drugs and 53 percent patients are unsatisfied with the course of treatment.
The study also found many untreated mental illnesses linked to the disaster.
‘In the 9/11 case, a compensation of Rs.80 million per head was given in less than a year. But the Indian government has neglected the victims. Even in a government-sponsored scheme, only 80 gas-hit women have got a job,’ Jabbar said.

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Bhopal tragedy: Victim awaits compensation

RUBINA KHAN SHAPOO, NDTV, AUGUST 5, 2006
There are still about 20,000 people who were affected in the Bhopal gas tragedy but have neither got compensation nor medical aid.
A PIL for relief for these victims is pending in the Supreme Court. An NGO has now moved another application for urgent medical aid for these victims, some of who may not survive till the court settles their compensation case.
Continue reading Bhopal tragedy: Victim awaits compensation

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