Bhopal survivors slam Indian government for neglect

Bhopal survivors slam Indian government for neglect of people poisoned by Union Carbide & Dow Chemical

Addressing a press conference on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the Union Carbide Bhopal gas disaster, leaders of five organisations fighting for the rights of the people exposed to Union Carbide’s poisons today condemned the central government for its neglect of the poisoned people and continued support to the American corporations.

The survivors’ organisations said that the decision of the central government to deny additional compensation to more than 90 percent of the people officially acknowledged to have been exposed to Union Carbide’s toxic gases is a grave injustice to the survivors who have received a paltry sum of Rs. 25,000 for lifelong injuries. They also condemned the absence of any decision on registration of exposure-related death claims after 1997, when such registration was arbitrarily stopped.

The survivors’organisations said that the central government has gone back on its word regarding the setting up of the Empowered Commission on Bhopal. They said that both in the meeting of the Committee of Secretaries chaired by the Prime Minister on June 3, 2008 and that of the Group of Ministers on Bhopal on June 22, 2008 it was decided to set up such a Commission with necessary funds and authority for longterm medical care and rehabilitation of the survivors and their children. However, in its June 2010 meeting the Group of Ministers on Bhopal chose to ignore this decision.

The organisations condemned the central government’s deliberate neglect of extraditing the authorised representatives of Union Carbide Corporation, USA and Union Carbide Eastern, Hong Kong that is now reincarnated as Union Carbide Asia Pacific Inc. and Union Carbide Asia Ltd. The survivors’ organisations said that the government has not taken the tiniest step against these corporations who are absconding the ongoing criminal case for last 18 years. They pointed out that despite the promises made by the Group of Ministers, a fresh request for extradition of prime accused Warren Anderson remains to be sent to the US government.

Commenting on the delay in filing the curative petition for enhancement of compensation, the organizations said that unless the central government presents a strategy for enforcing judicial decisions on Union Carbide, the curative petition in the Supreme Court will only serve to fool the survivors and deny them justice.

Citing the central government’s failure to make Dow Chemical, current owner of Union Carbide, to abide by the jurisdiction of Indian courts the survivors’ organisations said that there is clearly a lack of political will. Both Union Carbide and Dow Chemical continue to violate Indian laws and scoff at Indian courts and the government appears to be helpless. The survivors’ organisations said that if the central government was really serious about extracting compensation from the American corporations it would have joined the ongoing litigation on environmental damage in the US Federal court. The central government’s recent decision not to join this litigation, initiated by a group of people exposed to contaminated groundwater makes it clear that it is only paying lip service to the ‘polluter pays principle’ they said.

Safreen Khan, Children Against Dow-Carbide. T: 98 26994797

Balkrishna Namdeo, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha. T: 98 26345423

Rashida Bee, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh. T: 94 25688215

Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha. T: 9329026319

Rachna Dhingra, Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal Group for Information and Action. T: 9826167369

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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.