April 18, 2006 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Indian Prime Minister agrees to provide clean drinking water, and clean-up of toxic waste in Bhopal.
American supporters of the Bhopal hunger strike claim victory along with Bhopal hunger strikers as the Indian Government conceded to survivor demands for clean drinking water, clean-up of toxic waste, establishing national commission for medical and economic rehabilitation, and declaring December 3rd a National Day of mourning for the victims of the 1984 chemical disaster.
In support of Bhopal survivors concerned Americans and non-resident Indians from 17 cities across the US (Washington DC, New York, Boston, Austin, Houston, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Atlanta, Tempe, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Princeton, Ann Arbor and Chicago) called off demonstrations and vigils. They have been contacting the Indian Embassy and Consulates in the US, calling and e-mailing, since February 20th, urging the Indian government to address the issues raised by the Bhopalis. Over 400 international supporters pledged to fast for at least a day in solidarity with the Bhopal hunger strikers and bombarded the Prime Ministers office in Delhi with over 2600 faxes.
The hunger strike followed a month-long 500-mile march from Bhopal to New Delhi. Champa Devi Shukla, a Bhopal survivor who lost her husband in the disaster and a winner of the 2004 prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize and a hunger striker said, “Dow should beware now because all our energies will be focused on putting the brakes on Dow’s business in India.”
After their meeting with the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Bhopal survivors called off further scheduled plans for hunger strikes, when the Prime Minister conceded to four of the six long standing demands of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) on April 17, 2006. Three Bhopal activists will leave immediately for Bhopal to accompany a high-level team led by Secretary, Ministry of Chemicals, to finalize details regarding provision of safe water and the participation of survivors in the construction of a memorial in Bhopal.
“It’s a momentous victory for the indefatigable spirit of the Bhopalis. This campaign showed that the world is watching and the governments cannot flee from taking responsibility of its own citizens. It is a pity that it required a long march, hunger strike and the intervention of the Prime Minister to achieve what the government should have legitimately provided long ago. It shows that we have further challenges ahead,” said Kirankumar Vissa, Director of the Association for India’s Development (AID, an organization of Indians living in the US with 40 chapters, a member of ICJB.
“This triumph was a result of the determined struggle of the Bhopalis, which was bolstered by an internationally coordinated campaign to bring justice in Bhopal,” added Ryan Bodanyi, Coordinator of Students for Bhopal, an ICJB member.
The Prime Minister refused to grant the demand to prosecute Union Carbide Corporation (UCC)/Dow Chemical and former Carbide CEO Warren Anderson. Additionally he did not agree to a ban on further business with UCC/Dow Chemical.
Bhopal survivors quoted the Prime Minister as telling them he was powerless to hold UCC or its owner Dow Chemical accountable. The Prime Minister told them that he would not promise to prosecute because India has to do business despite these tragedies. He told them he would explore whatever options existed within the law to hold the UCC/Dow Chemical accountable.
“Encouraging as is the break through of the Bhopali survivors with key demands involving environmental clean up, economic rehabilitation, and adequate medical care there remains the dilemma of what to do about a rogue corporation, named Dow Chemical, which has refused to recognize its continuing liability for this 21 year old catastrophe,” said Ward Morehouse author of the Bhopal Reader and Bhopal Tragedy.
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