Bhopal gas tragedy victims discontented with government action continue agitation

June 9th, 2008 - 9:54 pm ICT by ANI  

Manmohan Singh

New Delhi , June 9 (ANI): Victims of Bhopal Gas Tragedy stage a die-in protest outside the Prime Minister’s Office in New Delhi on Monday demanding government’s commitment on empowering the special commission to be set up for their rehabilitation.

Protesters lay on the ground pretending to be dead to draw focus towards their continuing agitation in the national capital New Delhi for nearly four months.

In a bid to provide relief to the victims the PMO last month had sent an emissary to the victims with an assurance from the Central government of complying with their demand of setting up the commission.

However, according to the victims the statement issued by the PMO partially concedes their demand, as it makes no mention of the powers, funds and the number of years the commission on Bhopal will function.

They had tried twice to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make their pleas heard but to no avail.

The victims feel their pleas have gone unheard and Prime Minister has not paid any heed to their concern.

The gas victims have been demanding their rights for the last 23 years. We want that a special commission is formed that would take care of the rehabilitation of victims and we also demand that the government take action against the Union Carbide and its new owner, Dow Chemicals. Prime Minister has not paid any heed to our concern. He doesn’t have time to meet the victims who have been protesting in the capital from last 111 days, said Rachna Dhingra, member of Bhopal group for information and action.

The agitators threatened to launch a ‘global hunger strike’ from Tuesday with participation from more than eight countries.

The decision to start an indefinite hunger strike has been communicated to the PMO.

More than 3,500 people died in the days and weeks after toxic fumes spewed out of a pesticide plan in Bhopal on the night of December 2, 1984.

Officials say nearly 15,000 people have died since from cancer and other diseases.

Activists have put the toll at 33,000 and claim that toxins from thousands of tonnes of chemicals lying in and around the site have seeped into ground water.

Union Carbide in 1984 accepted moral responsibility for the tragedy and established a 100 million dollars charitable trust fund to build a hospital for victims. Later Union Carbide was taken over by Dow Chemicals.

The company also paid 470 million dollars to the Indian government in 1989 in a settlement reached after a protracted legal battle. The victims, on an average, received 25,000 rupees in case of illness and 100,000 rupees or so in case of a death in the family.

Michigan-based Dow Chemical says it is not responsible for the clean up as it never owned or operated the plant. The Madhya Pradesh government now owns the abandoned plant. (ANI)

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