Tag Archives: Rashida Bee & Champa Devi

Rasheeda and Champa light a fire at the APHA Awards in Washington DC

At a moving ceremony at the American Public Health Association, Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla were honoured with the Association’s Occupational Health & Safety Award.

Rashida and Champa were, predictably, articulate and passionate. Many among the audience were moved to tears. No surprise, commented our correspondent, given that those present were people who had committed themselves to working with the most neglected sections of the working class.

Many individuals offered the Bhopalis whatever support they, as public health professionals, could deliver and discussed the possibility of working together to deal with the ongoing medical nightmare in Bhopal.

Our poor correspondent (hello Nity, please give Apa and Didi a big Bhopali hug from all of us) was himself too overcome by emotion to write more, but the following account comes from Agence France Press.

“I wanted to jump out of the plane because the headache was so unbearable,” said Champa Devi Shukla, still in pain after inhaling toxic fumes in the world’s largest industrial disaster in India 20 years ago.

“The painkillers and sleeping tablets helped me make the flight here,” said the 52-year-old woman, recalling her long journey from the central Indian city of Bhopal, where she leads a campaign to seek justice for survivors of the toxic gas leak from a pesticide factory that killed more than 14,000 people.

Shukla and Rashida Bee, 48, another Bhopal survivor and co-leader of the campaign, came to the United States to receive an award Tuesday from the American Public Health Association.

After each received a plaque from the largest US organization of public health professionals, the two physically frail and diminutive women vowed to continue their fight against American giant Dow Chemical, the current owner of Union Carbide, which ran the ill-fated plant.

“In the 20 years that have passed, there has not been a single day when the victims have slept without taking medicine to sooth their pain,” Bee said after receiving the award to mark the 20th anniversary of the December 3, 1984, chemical disaster.

“Despite all the medicine, their health keeps falling,” she lamented. “For the drug companies this is a silver lining but for us it may be just slow, painful death,” she said through an interpreter, as tears welled in her eyes and Shukla’s.

The duo have “lit a fire” and catapulted the issue onto the global stage, said the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, a global coalition of nonprofit groups and individuals seeking justice for survivors.

“I have worked in the field of occupational and environmental medicine for over 25 years and this is clearly one of the worst tragedies that has occurred,” Barry Levy, a physician specialist, at the award ceremony told AFP.

“Not only do we need to recognize this but we also need to recognize the tragedies that go on in smaller numbers day in and day out throughout the world through chemical exposures,” he said.

Agence France Press

Meanwhile the ICJB have issued a press release reiterating demands for the extradition of Carbide ex-CEO Warren Anderson. Please see the full article.

BHOPAL ACTIVISTS DEMAND ex-UNION CARBIDE CEO’S EXTRADITION

10 NOVEMBER 2004, WASHINGTON D.C. —
Members of the Association for India’s Development-Maryland and the International Collective for Justice in Bhopal today held a peaceful demonstration outside the Indian embassy in Washington D.C. They pressed the Indian Government to expedite the extradition of former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson and deliver piped drinking water to Bhopal communities that are currently drinking water contaminated by poisons leaching from Union Carbide’s toxic wastes that lie strewn in and around their factory site in Bhopal.

The demonstration was led by Champa Devi Shukla and Rashida Bee – two women trade union leaders and gas victims from Bhopal – who received a prestigious international award from the American Public Health Association on 9 November in Washington D.C.

Warren Anderson and Union Carbide Corporation are wanted in India to face criminal trial on charges of manslaughter for his role in exporting an inherently unsafe factory to Bhopal, and authorising cost-cutting measures that compromised on safety. These two factors were key in causing the disaster. Despite assurances given by Anderson and Union Carbide that they would honour court summons from India, both parties have failed to appear in court to face trial. In fact, they were both declared fugitives from justice in 2002.

Public pressure from the Bhopal survivors and their supporters forced the Indian Government to send an extradition notice in May 2003 for Anderson 12 years after the court directed such action. Earlier this year, the US Government returned the extradition notice for Warren Anderson sent by the Government of India in 2003. “The Indian Government should have the courage to challenge the US Government and demand the extradition of Anderson. It is shameful that the US and Indian Governments are protecting a known fugitive and a person responsible for the world’s worst industrial disaster,” said Shukla.

The demonstrators also urged the Indian Government to ensure the clean-up of the toxic wastes and contaminated groundwater in and around the Union Carbide factory site at the polluter’s cost. They have said that neither Dow Chemical – Carbide’s new owner – nor the Governments of US and India would be allowed to rest easy until the Bhopal issues are resolved.

On December 3, the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, people and organisations around the world are expected to take action against Dow Chemical. More than 100 groups have already signed on to www.bhopal.net indicating their plans to take action on or around December 3.

For more information, contact: Diana Ruiz – 415 999 9064. Visit www.bhopal.net

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Survivors’ leaders to be honoured by the American Public Health Association

Bhopal survivors leaders Mrs. Rashida Bee and Mrs. Champa Devi Shukla left today for, USA to receive an international award for advancement of worker health and safety in India for the year 2004. The award, which is an honour that carries no monetary prize, will be presented to them by the American Public Health Association [APHA] at a ceremony on November 9, 2004 in Washington DC.

The award is given by APHA annually to one or two outstanding grassroots health and safety advocates who have advanced the cause of worker rights in their countries. In choosing Mrs. Rashida Bee and Mrs. Champa Devi for the award, the jury appreciated the active work of the two leaders in assisting workers and their families in Bhopal, in the aftermath of the December 1984 disaster.

The American Public Health Association is the oldest and largest organization of public health professionals in the world, representing more than 50,000 members from over 50 occupations of public health.

The two leaders who received the Goldman Environmental Prize in May this year will be returning to India on November 13, 2004.

Rashida Bee, Champa Devi Shukla
Presidents, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Syed M. Irfan
President, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha
Shahid Noor
President, Bhopal ki Aawaaz
Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra
Members, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
Tel: 9826167369

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Survivors celebrate Supreme Court victory

Organisations working with the survivors of the December 1984 Union Carbide disaster held a celebratory party for S Muralidhar, the survivors’ lawyer in the Supreme Court of India.

As counsel for Mrs Rashida Bee, Mrs Champa Devi Shukla and 34 other victims of Carbide’s gases, Muralidhar had moved a Writ arguing that undistributed compensation money held without explanation in the Reserve Bank of India for the last 15 years should be distributed among the 500,000 plus survivors. On July 19, 2004 the Supreme Court directed that the monies, amounting to Rs. 1,503 crores (€266 million, £180 million, US$324 million) belonged to the gas victims and should be given to them. Divided between more than half a million people, this isn’t Eldorado, in many cases it will not cover what people have spent on medicines, but it is nonetheless a great victory and was celebrated as such in the bastis and bidonvilles of Bhopal.

At the party, held in Chhola Naka near the Union Carbide factory, hundreds of gas victims garlanded Mr. Muralidhar amidst the sound of drums, cheering and clapping. Mr. Muralidhar in his speech advised the gas victims to deposit the money they receive in accounts in post offices. He cautioned the people not to give in to officials who might demand bribes and to put the money towards long term benefits. He assured that he would continue to fight for the rights of the gas victims. Mrs Rashida Bee and Mrs Champa Devi thanked Mr. Muralidhar on behalf of the residents of the 36 gas affected wards.<br
Rashida Bi, Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Shahid Noor, Bhopal ki Aawaaz
Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action

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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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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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