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While The Law Ministry Dithers, Leading Legal Luminaries and Political Stalwarts Unanimously Opine that it is a “Golden Opportunity” that shouldn’t be missed: Hunger Strike Without Water by Bhopal Activists Enters Day 3

New Delhi, June 20, 2004: As the last day for the Indian Government to send a letter to the US Federal Court in New York for clean up of toxic contamination in and around its factory in Bhopal draws closer [June 30th being the deadline], the Law Ministry is stalling progress on this matter by mixing up clearly distinct issues. of claims arising out of the gas leak and claims related to contamination in and around the Union Carbide factory. The Law Ministry opines that all claims related to Bhopal have been addressed in the Supreme Court settlement case of 1989 with Union Carbide Corporation.
Meanwhile, many legal experts in India have come forward to express their strong disagreement with the Law Ministry’s stand. “There are no legal hurdles before the Indian government in submitting …. a letter before the concerned US Court”, confirms Justice V R Krishna Iyer, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India. Many other legal luminaries like Indira Jaisingh, M C Mehta, Rajeev Dhavan, Usha Ramanathan etc., concur with Mr Krishna Iyer. In fact, the US Court itself has come up with its March 17th landmark ruling [saying that Union Carbide can be ordered to clean up its abandoned factory site if the Indian government or the State of Madhya Pradesh …..urges the Court to order such relief], after brushing aside Union Carbide’s own stand on the matter which was similar to that of the Indian Law Ministry.

As the countdown for the Indian Government to send its letter stands at Day 10, the indefinite hunger strike without water by three Bhopal activists including the Goldman award winner of 2004 Ms Rasheeda Bi entered Day 3. “We fail to understand why the Law Ministry should side with Union Carbide when the Supreme Court has long back upheld the Polluter Pays principle in this country”, says Rasheeda Bi. “In any case, the government has neither the technology nor the resources to clean up the contamination in and around the premises. How much more longer should the people of Bhopal continue to suffer Union Carbide’s misdeeds?” she asks. The other two activists joining her in the hunger strike include Mr Shahid Noor who was orphaned because of the gas leak disaster and runs an organisation for other youngsters orphaned like him, and Mr Satinath Sarangi, Member, Bhopal Group for Information and Action.
Doctors attending on the three hunger strikers have expressed serious concern over the rapid deterioration of the health of the activists considering that they are going without water and food in the hot and humid summer of Delhi. They warned that the dehydration would set in soon, and have advised that the activists should discontinue their fast immediately.
Many leading personalities joined hands with the Bhopal activists in urging the Government of India to act fast and make good this opportunity presented by the US Court. Swami Agnivesh was with them when they began their hunger strike on June 18th, along with more than 400 supporters from Bhopal. Former Prime Minister V P Singh expressed his support and solidarity. Ms Jaya Jaitley and Ms Nirmala Deshpande were the others who visited the hunger strike site at Jantar Mantar. Comrade Varadarajan of CITU also extended his support to the cause by meeting the activists.
Mr Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Science and Technology who met the activists yesterday evening, promised to do whatever he can, while saying that as a lawyer, he also disagrees with the Law Ministry’s stand. Union Minister Mr Oscar Fernandes came to meet the hunger strikers on being appraised of the situation and promised that he would take up the matter with the Law Ministry as well as the legal unit of the Congress party.
Even as efforts to move the Law Ministry to change its opinion continued, hundreds of supporters across the world have gone on a relay hunger strike to express their solidarity and to put pressure on the Indian government to put an end to the long-drawn suffering of the Bhopal survivors. Thousands of fax and email petitions have been sent to the Prime Minister of India to intervene in the matter. As the deadline for the Indian government to send a letter to the US Court approaches closer, everyone hopes that the government will at least now take the side of the Bhopal survivors, rather than the culprit multinational corporation.
For more information on the campaign, and to join the petition campaign, please visit:
https://www.bhopal.net or
http://www.greenpeaceindia.org or
http://www.studentsforbhopal.org

You can contact the following persons/numbers for more information:
Ms Rasheeda Bi, Mr Shahid Noor and Mr Satinath Sarangi – the hungerstrikers on the following mobile numbers: +91-98-102-02105 or +91-755-3132298
Ms Vinuta Gopal on +91-98-455-35418 or Ms Kavitha Kuruganti on +91-80-36882103 or Ms Anuradha Saibaba on + 91-98-119 -03172

You can send an email to the following addresses:
vgopal@dialb.greenpeace.org
justiceinbhopal@yahoo.co.in
campaigns@theothermedia.org
kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com

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Tell the Indian government to say YES to a clean up in Bhopal

***Urgent Action Alert***
Fax the Government! Join the nationwide hungerstrike!

In a historic ruling reached in response to a suit filed by Bhopal survivors, a court in New York has agreed to consider survivors’ claims for getting Union Carbide to clean up the toxic wastes in Bhopal.

For this to happen, the Indian Government needs to submit a letter to the New York court expressing its support for the survivors’ claims, and assuring the court of the Government’s interest in having Union Carbide clean-up the contaminated site and groundwater.

The DEADLINE set by the New York court for receipt of such a letter is June 30, 2004.

1) Fax the Indian government HERE
2) Join the nationwide hunger strike HERE
3)Call, write, and email the Indian gov’t!! Read on for more details.

If the Indian government sends a letter to the New York court by June 30, Carbide could be forced to clean up

Contact the Prime Minister of India and the Minister of Chemicals, Gov’t of India:

Request that the Government of India say “YES” to a cleanup in Bhopal.

Request that the Government send the letter to the New York court by June 30, 2004, expressing support to survivors’ claims for environmental remediation by Union Carbide.

Address your calls, faxes and emails to:

1. Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
Prime Minister’s Office
Room No. 152,
South Block,
New Delhi, 110001
Tel: +91 11 23012312, 23018939, Fax : 23016857

Bungalow No. 19,
Safdarjung Road,
New Delhi. 110011
Residence Tel 23018668, 23015470
Fax : 23015603

2. Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister of Chemicals
Tel: +91 11 23386519, 23386364 Fax: 011 +91 11 233 86519
Email: mincf.cpc@sb.nic.in
jsc.cpc@sb.nic.in)

3. Or send the letter below to the Government of India.

TALKING POINTS FOR PHONE CONVERSATIONS:
1. Ask for The Indian High Commissioner.
2. Subject of the call: To urge the Government of India to submit a letter by JUNE 30 supporting Bhopal survivors’ claims in ongoing lawsuit in New York court seeking remediation of contaminated factory site and surroundings by Union Carbide.
3. More than 5000 tons of toxic wastes abandoned by Union Carbide in Bhopal represents an ongoing source of pollution.
4. Nearly 20,000 people in the vicinity are forced to consume contaminated water due to the inaction by the Government and the company.
5. After two decades of inaction by Government and industry, survivors approached the Second District Court of New York seeking remediation of contaminated site and groundwater by Union Carbide.
6. Clean-up should be paid for by the Polluter — Union Carbide. Costs of clean-up can run into several hundreds of crores, and shouldn’t be passed on to taxpayers.
7. The Second District Court of New York has indicated that it will consider the claim if it receives a letter BY JUNE 30 from the Government of India indicating the Government’s support of plaintiffs’ claims for remediation by Union Carbide.
8. Reiterate that you are calling to press upon the Government to submit a letter to the New York court supporting the survivors’ claims for clean-up by Union Carbide.

BACKGROUND:

The world’s worst-ever industrial disaster devastated the Indian city of Bhopal nearly 20 years ago, in 1984. Union Carbide’s deadly legacy continues to haunt the people of Bhopal. Toxic wastes abandoned by Union Carbide remain strewn in and around the factory site representing an ongoing source of pollution. Poisons from these wastes have contaminated the groundwater serving more than 20,000 people.

After two decades of inaction by the company and the Government, survivors and residents from the contaminated areas filed a suit in the Southern District Court of New York seeking clean-up of the contamination by Union Carbide.

A March 17, 2004, order of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, USA, ruled that survivors’ claims seeking clean-up by Union Carbide should be considered by the New York District Court if “the Indian government or the State of Madhya Pradesh seeks to intervene in this action or otherwise urges the Court to order such relief.” The New York District Court has given the Government of India until June 30, 2004, to submit such a letter.

MODEL LETTER TO GOVT OF INDIA:

To: The Prime Minister,
Govt of India
Prime Minister’s Office
Room No. 152,
South Block,
New Delhi, 110001
India

COPY TO:
Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan,
Minister of Chemicals
Shastri Bhavan
New Delhi 11000
Tel: +91 11 23386519, 23386364 Fax: +91 11 23384020

Dear Sir,
I’m writing to urge your Government to do right by the survivors of the Bhopal disaster by taking steps to address their long-standing concerns. Thousands of tons of toxic wastes lie dumped and open to the elements in and around the former Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. Poisons from these wastes have leached into the groundwater serving more than 20,000 people in the neighborhood.

After two decades of inaction by the company and the Government, survivors and residents from the contaminated areas filed a suit in the Southern District Court of New York seeking clean-up of the contamination by Union Carbide. (Sajida Bano et al v. Union Carbide Corporation and Warren Anderson)

A March 17, 2004, order of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, USA, ruled that survivors’ claims seeking clean-up by Union Carbide should be considered by the New York District court if “the Indian government or the State of Madhya Pradesh seeks to intervene in this action or otherwise urges the Court to order such relief.” The New York District Court has given the Government of India until June 30, 2004, to submit such a letter.

Allowing the polluter to escape because it is a powerful MNC, and allowing the victims to be revictimised because they are seen as powerless poor people is a dangerous folly. Not only does it underestimate the power of organized and globalised resistance that the Bhopalis are capable of unleashing, it also projects India as a willing dumping ground for the world’s dirty technology.

I urge the Indian Government to support the legal action initiated by survivors by writing to the Southern District Court of New York urging the court to order plant site and groundwater remediation by Union Carbide Corporation.

Sincerely,

Address:
Email:

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Law Minister gets his facts wrong.

Survivors’ leaders Champa Devi Shukla and Rashida Bee who recently won the Goldman Award and Vinuta Gopal went and met Law Minister Mr. Hans Raj Bharadwaj at 1pm at his office in Shastri Bhavan. The minister did not ask them to sit down (nor did he sit down himself, in fact he kept moving towards the door so that the Bhopal delegation was gradually “pushed out” of the door) and spent just five minutes with them. He said he has seen all the papers and this issue of the Indian government submitting a statement is connected with the Bhopal Act. He said all this has been covered by the 1989 settlement. He was given a petition which he refused to accept. The delegation requested him again to accept the petition. He took it and threw it on his table without reading or even taking a look at it. He said the Law Ministry has already given its opinion on the matter and now it was left to the Ministry of Chemicals to decide. He asked the delegation whether they wanted to teach law to him. Then he asked the delegation to leave. It seems we have to teach Mr Bahadwaj the law. Eminent Indian lawyers say he is wrong. You can take action to ensure that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chemicals Minister Paswan know the legal facts about the situation. Please read on for news of other meetings. Hunger strike diary here.

Meeting with Director, Bhopal Cell, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.

The delegation of three [Champa Devi, Rashida Bee and Vinuta Gopal] met with Mr. Harish Kumar the official in charge of Bhopal matters in the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertlizers at 2.30 PM. On entering his room they found his table covered with faxes. He said we can not do any work because of the faxes that are reaching here from USA and other countries.He asked them to sit down. he said he knew all about the US Court’s decision and the demand of the campaign groups. He said he has sent copies of the US Court order, petitions by campaign organizations and the letter from the MP government to the Law Ministry. He said the Law Ministry has opined that the issue of contamination is covered by the settlement of 1989.When the delegation pointed out that the matter of contamination was unrelated to the disaster or the settlement, Mr. Harish Kumar stated that it was his opinion too. Mr. Kumar said that he was in communication with the Law Ministry about it because that Ministry’s opinion was crucial for a final decision. Mr. Kumar suggested that the delegation meet again with the Minister of Chemicals and Ferttilizers. The delegation informed Mr. Kumar about the decision to go on fast without water.As the delegation was walking out Mr. Kumar’s secretary walked in with a pile of freshly arrived faxes.

Meeting with Dr Hosa Bettu, Director, Hazardous Substances Management Division, Ministry of Environment and Forests

The Bhopal delegation met with Dr. Bettu at 5.15 PM at the Paryavaran Bhavan, CGO Complex.. The delegation presented their case. Dr. Bettu said he was fully aware of the matter and had sent his opinion to the Governments of India and Madhya Pradesh two days back.He said that the Madhya Pradesh government should have directly submitted a statement in the US Court. He said he has recommended that the statement should be submitted.

Meanwhile Mr. MC Mehta, Lawyer, Goldman award winner in 1996, said “this is a golden opportunity for the Indian government and it must make best use of it”. Usha Ramnathan, internationally reputed academic in law and retd Chief Justice Krishna Iyer extended full support to the campaign to get Indian government to submit the statement.

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