Correspondent : Vibha Sharma
New Delhi, March 29
Survivors of the Bhopal Gas tragedy have received some major international support with 20 prominent US senators writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in support of the “New Delhi padyatra” by Bhopal gas victims. The letter assumes significance as some of the names who have signed the letter also include some “prominent friends of India in the US Congress”.
Saying that it is difficult to understand that why so few steps have been taken to alleviate the suffering of the Bhopal survivors” members of the US Congress added, ” The Indian Government has repeatedly said that justice will be served, but has exemplified no commitment to this end”.
They also took American companies, Union Carbide and Dow Chemical, to task, saying that the US-run Union Carbide built on a poorly designed pesticide plant in Bhopal poisoned local water and therefore should be held accountable for these crimes and their disregard of basic human rights.
Condemning the attitude of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical, they stressed that “the conduct of American companies outside the US was a long-standing concern of ours, especially with regards to the environmental protection standard”.
Twenty-one years and many struggles later, as many as 39 survivors of the worst industrial disaster of the world walked into the Capital after a 800-km trek from Bhopal on Saturday that took them 33 days to complete. Stressing that justice still eluded the victims of the Union Carbide chemical leak tragedy that shook the world on that bleak December night in 1984, padyatris, which included some well-known names like Rashida Bi and Champa Devi, would continue sitting on a dharna at Jantar Mantar, here, till their six-point charter of demands was met.
In their letter dated March 23, 2006, the Congressmen expressed outrage at the fact “that the CEOs of the Union Carbide and its successor Dow Chemical were yet to be brought to justice. Survivors had made continuous demands through both protest and litigation, but it had little effect. It was disappointing that the Indian Government had been reticent to pursue Union Carbide and Dow Chemical for their civil and criminal liabilities in the country”.
A copy of the letter, signed by Frank Pallone, Barbara Lee, Janice Schakowsky, Dennis Kucinich, Raul Grijalva, Robert Wexler, Joseph Crowley, Donald Payne, Edolphus Towns, Fortney Pete Stark, Sherrod Brown, Carolyn Kilpatrick, Patrick Kennedy, Edward Markey, Steven Rothman, James Oberstar, Major Owens, Grace Napolitand, James Langevin and Tammy Baldwin, had also been sent to the Indian Embassy at Washington.
“At a time when a new generation of victims is surfacing among children born to gas-affected parents and those exposed to contaminated drinking water, the government must take care of those affected by this horrible tragedy. In addition, they must hold the Union carbide and its parent company Dow Chemical responsible for the disaster,” members of the US Congress said.
SOURCE : The Tribune, Thursday, March 30, 2006