Bhopal Panel Discussion, University of Oxford, 23rd June

1984 Union Carbide gas tragedy

‘No More Bhopals’ Panel Discussion on the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy, with Oxford University academics and Satinath ‘Sathyu’ Saranghi from Bhopal. Hosted by the Oxford India Society.

Sunday 23rd June from 5.30 – 7 pm, Massey Room, Balliol College, OX1 3BJ.

Sathyu Saranghi.
Satinath ‘Sathyu’ Sarangi was born in Orissa, India. His work as a campaigner began with involvement in indigenous people’s struggle for self-determination in Bihar and with students involved in organising low caste agricultural workers.

Sathyu combined his activist work with study and completed his Masters in Technology degree (Metallurgical Engineering) from the Institute of Technology, Varanasi in 1980. He was an outstanding student and received many awards from Banaras Hindu University. Sathyu embarked on a PhD in Metallurgical Engineering and combined this with work as a research engineer for the Council of Industrial and Scientific Research in Bhopal. He became disillusioned with the work and in 1984 joined Kishore Bharati, an NGO working among tribal and semi-tribal people in villages near Bhopal. It was while working with village youths that he heard in a radio broadcast on December 3rd, 1984 about the Bhopal Union Carbide factory gas leak. He left for Bhopal that evening, rushing to help the people affected. He still lives in the area today.

Shocked by the large numbers of causalities, with 8-10,000 killed in the first three days and with more than 25,000 people killed to date, Sathyu has worked tirelessly, carrying out relief work along with political advocacy and raising awareness. Within days of the leak, he co- founded the first survivor’s group and, in 1986, he became one of the founders of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA), which was established to provide information, offer support to different survivor organisations, and initiate national and international campaigns. In absence of coordinated Governmental initiative, BGIA has documented the quality of medical care available to the survivors and problems in the distribution of compensation. BGIA has called for improvement in medical care and disposal of toxic waste which continues to contaminate the groundwater consumed by tens of thousands of people near to the abandoned factory, site of the disaster.

BGIA has also provided legal assistance to survivor claimants who have been wrongfully denied compensation, or have been paid inadequate sums, and continues to fight the various unresolved legal cases surrounding the Bhopal Disaster including the criminal case that has never been answered by Union Carbide or its erstwhile CEO, Warren Anderson, who remain fugitives from Indain justice to this day.

In response to the poor medical care available for the Union Carbide survivors, Sathyu helped establish the Sambhavna Trust and Clinic in 1995. From its modest beginnings, the clinic has grown into a modern facility, complete with laboratory facilities and medical staff. The clinic offers Ayurveda, the indigenous system of health care that uses herbal medicines alongside Western medicines and has achieved remarkable success using combinations of these treatments. Medicinal plants are grown in the clinics own organic garden and are manufactured, on site, into various Ayurvedic medicines. Amonst many awards, the Sambhavna Trust was awarded the Japanese Tajiri Muneaki prize in 1999, the national ‘Inner Flame Award’ for outstanding humanitarian work in 2001, the international Margaret Mead Award in 2002, and presented a paper to the World Asthma Conference regarding treating OPD, using yoga breathing techniques, in 1999.

Sathyu continues his work with the Sambhavna Trust as its Managing Trustee and travels and publishes extensively, reminding the world that, almost 30 years later, Justice for Bhopal is on-going.

Sathyu will draw on his personal experiences from Bhopal, contextualising it within the larger framework of global problems of industrial pollution, its environmental consequences, and the need for effective medical response. For those interested in corporate accountability and human rights, responses to mass disasters, strategies of activism and environmental consequences of industrial pollution, this promises to be a stimulating discussion.

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We believe Dow must finally accept responsibility for Bhopal. Until then, The Bhopal Medical Appeal funds two award-winning clinics in the city. Both offer free, first-class care to victims of the gas disaster or the ongoing water contamination. The survivors have nowhere else left to turn – please help if you can.