Bhopal gas tragedy survivors who have been fighting for justice for the last 26 years plan to bring their plight to the notice of US President Barack Obama, who will visit India on November 6-9, a representative of the victims said on Wednesday. For this, they will stage a sit-in at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on November 8 when Obama will be present in the capital, the representative said.
Tonnes of poisonous methyl-iso-cyanate gas spewed out of the now-shut pesticide plant of Union Carbide India located in a congested part of Bhopal on December 2-3 night in 1984, killing over 3,000 overnight.
In the years that followed, people exposed to the gas kept dying or suffered from life-long ailments and complications. The deaths in the world’s worst industrial disaster is believed to be about 25,000.
At least five organisations working for the gas tragedy victims held a joint press conference in Bhopal Wednesday and briefed reporters about their plans.
“We are going to ask Obama to use his presidential powers to make US corporations Union Carbide and Dow Chemical (which took over Union Carbide) answerable to Indian courts,” said Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.
On June 7, a Bhopal court held seven officials of the Union Carbide India plant and the company itself guilty of criminal negligence and causing th industrial; disaster.
But as the guilty were bailed out within minutes of the verdict, survivors and activists called it a mockery of justice.
Rashida Bee said Union Carbide’s authorised executives and its former chairman Warren Anderson charged with serious offences, including culpable homicide, had been avoiding Indian courts all these years.
She said that the other US corporation evading legal liability in the case was Dow Chemical, owner of the Union Carbide since 2001.
For the last five years, Dow Chemical has been refusing to submit to the jurisdiction of the Madhya Pradesh High Court where a case related to contamination of ground water and soil was still going on, she said.
“Over a hundred thousand people are chronically ill and hundreds are dying due to exposure to Union Carbide’s poison clouds in 1984. Even today hundreds of babies are being born with deformities, while their parents suffer from damaged liver, kidney and lungs. But Dow Chemical refuses to own up its legal liability for contaminating the soil,” she said.
“For years, the US government has deliberately chosen not to take action against the two corporations,” said Balkrishna Namdeo, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha.
“We will ask Obama to take the first steps towards reversing this inglorious history of the US government with regard to justice in Bhopal,” he said.
Safreen Khan, a teenaged activist, said: “Obama has taken rather strong steps against British Petroleum’s environmental crimes in the Gulf of Mexico. We expect Obama to push for similar corporate accountability with respect to the Bhopal tragedy.”
Abdul Jabbar, another activist said, he along with 5,000 gas victims would stage a sit-in Nov 10 in Bhopal and Nov 22 in Delhi during parliament session.