At noon today survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster, neighbourhood residents of the abandoned Union Carbide factory and their supporters locked themselves to the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister’s residence seeking adequate compensation and clean up of the contaminated factory site.
Outside the CM’s residence protesters staged a die-in and hundreds more gathered to remind the state government of its constitutional duties towards the victims of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical.
Five survivors’ and supporters’ organisations who jointly led the protest said that today’s action was part of the recently announced campaign around the 30th anniversary of the disaster. The organisations demand that the state government revise the figures of death and injury in the curative petition for additional compensation and call for its urgent hearing.*
They also demanded that the state government intervene in the legal action for clean up of the contaminated site that is ongoing in the US Federal court.
“The state government has presented the figure of 15348 deaths due to the gas disaster in all its official records but the curative petition in which it says only 5295 people died.” said Balkrishna Namdeo president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha.
“Through today’s actions we hope to inspire the Chief Minister to fulfill his 3 year old promise of ensuring Rs. 5 lakh as compensation for each gas victim. This can only happen if the state government revises the curative petition.” he said
Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information & Action said that 17 residents from the communities near the Union Carbide factory are seeking cleanup of contamination of soil and ground water through a suit against Union Carbide in the southern district court of New York.
“The US court has sent notice to the Madhya Pradesh government to appear in the case and present all facts but so far the government has chosen not to act. The government needs to intervene immediately because it is the owner of the factory and dumping sites that need to be cleaned up as the first priority”, he said.
The organisations held the central government equally responsible for the denial of adequate compensation and official apathy towards the critical issue of clean up of the poisoned land and water. They said that victims of gas exposure and contamination would undertake a fast without water in New Delhi to move the central government into action.
A delegation of the organisations had recently met with the Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers, who is in charge of all matters concerning the Bhopal disaster. They have also conveyed the two demands and their decision to go on waterless fast to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister and the Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers.
*the ‘Curative Petition’.
#DowChemical is a named respondent in a forthcoming ‘curative petition’ in India’s Supreme Court that aims to address inadequacies within the 1989 civil settlement (U.S. $470 million) and a hearing date is now due after postponement of the scheduled date, August 5th, 2014.
The Indian Government’s official position is that the ‘gross inadequacy’ of the 1989 settlement with UCC resulted in an ‘irremediable injustice’ and is seeking additional compensation of up to $1.24billion, based on higher figures for the dead and injured. But, the Bhopal survivors groups are quoting the Government of India’s own previously published numbers (Indian Council of Medical Research, epidemiological report, 2004) which are considerably higher and would raise the required settlement to $8.1billion. The other respondents are Union Carbide Corporation, Union Carbide India Limited and Eveready Industries.
*Contamination suit, US Federal Court
Union Carbide Corporation is subject to a federal class-action lawsuit (Sahu II v. UCC) in the Southern District New York Court. The action seeks relief and medical monitoring for the ongoing contamination in Bhopal caused by the indiscriminate dumping of toxic waste in and around the Union Carbide factory. The US courts accept that this is a distinct matter from the 1984 gas disaster and has not been part of any pre-existing settlement.