Bhopal gas survivors gathered outside the Prime Minister of India’s office in New Delhi to file Right-to-Information (RTI) requests regarding the civil nuclear liability bill and its relationship with the lessons of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal.
“We want to know whether the lingering concerns of the Bhopal disaster have been considered at all in preparing the draft of the civil nuclear liability bill. 25 years after the disaster we are still waiting for the Prime Minister to set up an Empowered Commission for proper medical care and rehabilitation. What will be the fate of the survivors of a nuclear disaster?” said Zulekha Bee a survivor of the disaster who is on a protest dharna in New Delhi since April 15 demanding the setting up of an Empowered Commission on Bhopal.
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“As per the proposed Civil Nuclear Liability Bill the maximum compensation payable in the event of a nuclear disaster would be 450 million US $s which is even less than the 470 million US $s paid to Bhopalis. This amount did not even pay for five years medical bills for most Bhopalis. We want to know on what basis the maximum compensation amount was fixed in the proposed Bill.” said Nawab Khan, secretary of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha.
According to Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill closely resembles a draft circulated by FICCI and is designed to protect big corporations rather than the victims of industrial disaster. “The bill seeks to offer impunity to American corporations and limit compensation amount and is a blatant attempt at legitimizing the collusive settlement between Union Carbide and the Government of India. The Government has not acted on its promise to set up an Empowered Commission, even while it has taken major interest in delivering on its promise to the American nuclear industry.” she said.
The survivors of the disaster said that they have twice walked all the way from Bhopal to New Delhi in 2006 and 2008 with their demand for the setting up of an Empowered Commission on Bhopal for long term medical care and rehabilitation. According to them, on May 29, 2008 the Prime Minister had stated that the government was in agreement with the demand but the promise of setting it up with adequate authorities and fund remains to be fulfilled.