Bhopal gas victims protest outside PMO in Delhi, demand justice
Twenty-eight years after the world's worst industrial disaster, victims and survivors of the deadly Bhopal gas leak protested outside the Prime Minister's Office in New Delhi on Monday, demanding his intervention to get justice.
It maybe recalled that in the early hours of December 3, 1984, a pesticide factory owned by the US multinational 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 whereas the civil society and other social activists assess that 8,000 people died in the immediate aftermath and thousands have died of illnesses related to gas exposure in the years that followed. However, campaigners claim that as many as 25,000 residents of Bhopal died in the aftermath of the gas leak.
Meanwhile, victims, mostly women, camped outside the Singh's office, voicing their demand for justice.
One of the main campaigners for the Bhopal gas victims, Satinath Sarangi, said:"We have come here to meet the Prime Minister, seeking his personal intervention on two critical issues, both issues of justice."
He added: "We are saying that the corporation and the officials responsible for the worst corporate massacre in history, for killing 25,000 people, poisoning half-a-million people must be punished in an exemplary manner."
"And, we are reminding the government and the Prime Minister that the government has done nothing, not a tiny step, to make Union Carbide Corporation representatives face trial in India," he said.
Earlier this year, survivors of the gas leak protested against the sponsorship of the London Games by Dow Chemical, the current owners of the defunct plant in Bhopal.
According to activists, about 100,000 people who were exposed to the gas now suffer from ailments that range from cancer, blindness and birth defects.
Shehzadi, a survivor said: "We have come here from Bhopal to demand from the Prime Minister that over 5,000-10,000 gas victims should get compensations. And the 22 localities that have contaminated water should get proper drinking water and compensation for their losses. We have come with hopes from the Prime Minister and we will not leave this vicinity without meeting him. Even if we are jailed or hanged or they kill us, but we will not leave without meeting him."
A separate trial against Union Carbide and Warren Anderson, who was its CEO during the time of the accident, on charges, including homicide, is stuck as Anderson remains absconding.
In India's notoriously slow legal system, it may take years before a decision is reached.
Dow, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, has repeatedly denied any responsibility for Bhopal and has refused demands, including from the Indian government, to increase a USD 470-million compensation package that Union Carbide paid to victims in 1989.