Bhopal survivors chain themselves near PM’s House, held (Lead)

May 21st, 2008 - 9:15 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, May 21 (IANS) Thirty-seven survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster, including 22 women, were arrested Wednesday when demanding that the government address their grievances immediately they chained themselves near Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence here. The police said the people chained themselves to the railings opposite the heavily-guarded Prime Minister’s House at 7, Race Course Road.

Around 80 protesters, carrying white flags and banners bearing messages like “No more Bhopals”, lay on the road when the police tried to whisk them away in a bus.

“They were not allowed to go near the PM’s House, so they chained themselves. We cut their chains and took them into custody,” Joint Commissioner of Police (New Delhi Range) Ajay Kashyap told IANS.

Under the banner of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha and Bhopal Group for Information and Action, the protesters sought legal action against Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals, which own the Bhopal chemical plant, and demanded better rehabilitation of the Bhopal victims.

On the night of Dec 2-3, 1984, a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal spewed tonnes of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas, killing some 3,800 people instantly and many more later. Dow Chemicals later bought Union Carbide.

The world’s worst industrial disaster also affected thousands, many of whom continue to suffer from various chronic diseases.

Contaminated groundwater around the plant area still infects people with various ailments ranging from skin problems to birth defects, say activists working among the survivors.

Many of the survivors have been staging a protest in New Delhi for nearly two months. They had sought a meeting with the prime minister in January.

Nityanand Jayaraman, an activist, said: “On April 16, a Bhopal boy wrote a letter to the prime minister using blood drawn from the Bhopal victims, seeking an hour of his time.”

“The letter was delivered to the prime minister along with handwritten notes from more than 500 children from across the country,” he said.

Since then, 2,800 people from 18 countries have sent fax messages to the Prime Minister’s Office, seeking a meeting with Manmohan Singh.

“Twenty-three years is too long. This is a matter of our lives and liberty, and our children’s health. We are not prepared to wait, and will do what it takes to ensure that the Prime Minister realizes that we, and not American corporations, are his priority,” a joint statement from the protesting groups read.

NGOs working among the survivors have demanded a commission to execute social, economic and medical rehabilitation of the victims, environmental clean-up of the area and provision of clean drinking water for the residents of the area.

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