Plans for memorial to Bhopal gas victims receive setback

January 16th, 2009 - 8:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhopal, Jan 16 (IANS) The Madhya Pradesh government proposal to build a memorial to the victims of the infamous 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy is embroiled in a controversy even before plan could take off.The government has proposed to set up the memorial at the defunct Union Carbide chemical plant at a cost of Rs.700 million on an area of 67 acres.

State Urban Administration Minister Babulal Gaur said Wednesday the defunct factory premises would be handed over to the housing and environment department for the construction of the monument after the area is cleaned up of its toxic waste.

Gaur said the layout for the monument, which provides for construction of a museum, photo gallery, auditorium, monument structure and garden, was ready.

However, organisations working for the rehabilitation of the gas tragedy victims have opposed the dismantling of the existing structure and expect the government to consult them on any proposal for a memorial.

“Any such attempt by the government without seeking the advise of the surviving gas victims would be futile. The existing structure of the plant that has been lying defunct should be kept intact,” said Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group of Information and Action (BGIA).

She said the government should ask the survivors on what they would like to be included in the memorial.

Another activist, Satinath Sarangi said: “Any attempt to build the memorial by the government without the participation of survivors would not be acceptable. Also, any step in this direction should not include dismantling the existing plant structure. Besides, it should have a museum narrating all the aspects of the tragedy.”

“It is unfortunate that the state has not been able to construct a memorial even 24 years after the tragedy. It has not even talked to the survivors or their organisations in this regard,” said Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan convener Abdul Jabbar.

He said the proposed memorial should be a natural one and include a library containing details about the struggle of the gas victims, legal battles fought by them so far and all the details about the tragedy, including those published and videographed.

The Bhopal gas tragedy took place at the Union Carbide subsidiary pesticide plant Dec 3, 1984, killing over 15,000 people. The plant released 42 tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, exposing more than 500,000 people to toxic gases.

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