US flag, Dow Chemical and Union Carbide logos to be torched by Bhopal gas victims on 32nd anniversary of Gas disaster

By Pervez Bari,

Bhopal: On the occasion of 32nd anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, the world’s worst industrial catastrophe, the flag of United States of America, (USA), and the logos of two Corporations: Dow Chemical and Union Carbide, would be torched by the victims, survivors of the tragedy and five NGOs working for their welfare.

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NGOs working for welfare of Bhopal gas victims &  survivors addressing a Press Conference in Bhopal.
NGOs working for welfare of Bhopal gas victims and survivors addressing a Press Conference in Bhopal.

This angst against the above three entities will be to express anger for the agony of victims, survivors and their kin who are still continuing to suffer even after 32 years of the tragedy for want of proper medical treatment and adequate compensation in accordance to the irreparable loss suffered by them and their progenies.

It may be mentioned here that Union Carbide had come to a settlement in 1989 by paying meagre $470 million to the Indian government. Critics have maintained that the amount is too low, and must be hiked.

Addressing a joint Press Conference five of these NGOs said that the disaster is still ongoing and the generations born after the disaster are also marked by the poisons that leaked from the American multinational pesticide factory. The NGOs said that the factory abandoned by the corporation is still killing and maiming people due to poisoning of groundwater from reckless dumping of toxic waste during its 14 years of operation prior to the disaster.

Meanwhile, it may be recalled here that on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing factory had spewed poisonous Methyl Iso-cyanate gas whereby 3000 people had perished virtually instantly and over the years more than 25000 have kissed death and the sad saga is still continuing uninterruptedly. About half a million are suffering from the side effects of the poisonous gas and several thousand people have been maimed for life.

According to Balkrishna Namdeo, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogee Sangharsh Morcha, the killer factory was set up and run in Bhopal with much help from the US government. And now the US government is sheltering both Dow Chemical and Union Carbide by refusing to serve the Bhopal Court’s notices to Dow. This year within one month, 127,000 thousand people wrote to the US President’s office asking that the Department of Justice serve the notice on Dow Chemical and all we got in response was an apology for deliberate inaction.

“That is why this year on the 32nd anniversary we will burn the US flag along with the logos of the two corporations,” he added.

Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, said: “US multinational, The Dow Chemical Company that took over Union Carbide in 2001 is responsible for cleaning up the contamination of soil and groundwater in more than 50 square kilometers around the factory. In the last two years, Dow Chemical has ignored four judicial notices asking its authorized representative to appear before the Bhopal district court. And now it is merging with another American multinational, DuPont, to further evade the civil, criminal and environmental liabilities of Bhopal.”

Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha charged the Indian government with “active complicity in the ongoing corporate crimes in Bhopal”. He said that the Indian government was helping the US corporations get away without paying adequate compensation and cleaning up the environmental contamination.

“The central government is downplaying the figures of death and extent of injuries in the curative petition before the Supreme Court for additional compensation from the US corporations. It is also refusing to carry out a scientific assessment of the toxic contamination of soil and groundwater”, Nawab said.

According to him, “the most glaring instance of the central government’s neglect of the victims of Bhopal is in the sorry state of the two institutions it runs — the Bhopal Memorial hospital and NIREH, the research centre that has not completed a single research project in last six years,” he added.

According to Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action the Madhya Pradesh state government is equally responsible for the continuing plight of the survivors and the utter neglect of their children’s health.

Rachna said, “In the last 12 years, the state government has not implemented a single recommendation of the Monitoring Committee set up by the Supreme Court to ensure adequate medical care and rehabilitation of the victims and their children.” Charging the state government officials with corruption, she added, “Since its inception, the dedicated government department of relief and rehabilitation of the Bhopal victims has been little else but a milky cow for the officials. It is almost three years since we submitted documentary evidence of corruption in payment of 18 crores on economic rehabilitation by the department and have seen no action.”

“The preliminary findings of the Sambhavna Trust’s recent research shows that 10 times more gas affected people are dying of cancers – primarily of the kidneys, throat and lungs – compared to unexposed people of similar socio – economic background. The bottom-line is that half the victims of the disaster are Muslims and 80 per cent of the Hindus are from the lower castes.

That is the reason that even 32 years after that fateful night we have to continue with fighting for our lives and that of the unborn.” said Safreen Khan of the Children Against Dow-Carbide”, an organization of the next generation of survivors.