Activists, victims of Bhopal Gas Tragedy vow to knock PMO on its 28th anniversary

Bhopal, Nov.19 (ANI): Activists and victims of the December 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy, have vowed to knock on the doors of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to seek adequate compensation on the 28th anniversary of the incident, which falls on December 3.

In the early hours of December 3, 1984, a pesticide factory owned by Union Carbide accidentally released about 40 metric tonnes of deadly methyl isocyanate gas into Bhopal's atmosphere.

The wind carried the gas to surrounding areas - mainly densely populated slums - exposing around half a million people.

The government says the disaster killed around 3,500. But activists calculate that 8,000 people died in the immediate aftermath and thousands have died of illnesses related to gas exposure in the years that followed. They say a total of 25,000 people have died since 1984.

Talking to reporters in Bhopal on Monday, an activist, Satinath Sarangi, said: "On the occasion of the 28th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, five organisations working among the survivors of the disaster will this year go and knock on the door of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on December 3. We will go in large numbers on December 2 and ask the Prime Minister to resolve the burning issues of the gas victims which include adequate compensation to all gas victims, because 94 percent gas victims have received only 25,000 rupees as compensation so far. We also demand exemplary punishment to the corporations and its officials who have been absconding for so many years."

Activists and health workers say a further 100,000 people who were exposed to the gas continue to suffer "chronic" health problems today.

Sicknesses range from cancer, blindness, respiratory difficulties, immune and neurological disorders, female reproductive disorders as well as birth defects among children born to affected women.

The government shut the plant shortly after the disaster, and Union Carbide, which was bought by Dow Chemical in 2001, says it has done more than enough to remedy the situation.

He also hit at the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chauhan for not fulfilling the promise, which he made to the victims.

"The chief minister of Madhya Pradesh had promised that he will accompany a team of representatives of survivors for a meeting with the Prime Minster on the issue of compensation. It has been one year, and the chief minister is yet to fulfil his promise. So, this year, we have also invited the Chief Minster to join us when we go to meet the Prime Minister on December 3 on the 28th anniversary of the disaster," added Sarangi.

Affected communities say the compensation given was based on government figures from the immediate aftermath that are grossly under-estimated.

They say people are still dying every day due to the ill effects of the gas. Survivors are demanding that Dow Chemical pay more equitable relief to the tens of thousands who continue to suffer.

Activists and lawyers representing the affected people say the plant site has not been cleaned up and thousands of tonnes of toxic chemical waste have seeped into the soil over the years, contaminating groundwater that is drinking water for around 20,000 people.

Victim of the Bhopal gas tragedy, Rashida Bi said that the fight for justice would continue till their demands are met.

"This tragedy struck us on 1984 and ever since we have been bearing its brunt. The provincial and federal government has not offered us much help and is siding with the culprits. We will fight until we get justice."

A recent study conducted by one of India's leading think-tanks, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), has confirmed the presence of toxic chemicals in drinking water and says it is slowly poisoning thousands more people.

The CSE report contradicts the government's findings, saying samples taken from around the factory site were found to contain chlorinated benzene compounds and organochlorine pesticides 561 times the national standard.

Samples taken as far as 3 km (1.9 miles) away from the plant were found to have toxic chemicals 38.6 times more than the standard. The report said there could be no other source of these toxins than Union Carbide. (ANI)