40 Bhopal children protesting outside PMO detained


New Delhi : At least 70 survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak tragedy, including 40 children, were detained Monday as they staged a protest outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence seeking government-redressal of their grievances.

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Braving the risks of holding a demonstration in a high-security zone, the children took to task the government for making the Bhopal gas tragedy victims walk and wait merely to get their basic rights to health, livelihood and clean environment.

“We are of the same age as Dr. (Manmohan) Singh’s grandchildren. Would he let his grandchildren drink poisoned water or see them sitting on the hot pavement for 40 days?” Asked 11-year-old Yasmin Khan, one of the two score youngsters who have come to the capital after an arduous 800-km march from Bhopal.

Representatives of the Bhopal survivors have been holding a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar here for the past 40 days to draw the government’s attention to inadequate health care facilities, poisoned water sources and other problems they continue to face.

On the night of Dec 3, 1984, a Union Carbide subsidiary pesticides plant in Bhopal accidentally released 40 tonnes of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas, killing approximately 3,800 people.

The incident, known as one of the world’s worst industrial disasters, left hundreds of thousands suffering from various diseases after chronic exposure. Contaminated groundwater around the plant area still continues to infect people with various ailments ranging from skin problems to birth defects.

Nityanand Jayaraman, an activist who is protesting along with the survivors, said: “On April 16, Yasmin wrote a letter to the prime minister with blood drawn from Bhopal victims, seeking an hour of his time.

“This letter was delivered to the prime minister along with hand-written 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 (PMO) for a meeting with Manmohan Singh on the survivors’ grievances.

Various NGOs working for the survivors have demanded an empowered commission to execute social, economic and medical rehabilitation, environmental cleanup and provision of clean drinking water.

They have submitted a draft bill for the commission to the PMO and a Group of Ministers.