New Delhi: “If Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not visit the gas disaster site and does not meet the survivors during his visit to Bhopal, it would be like a Hindu going to Varanasi and not visiting the Kashi Vishwanath Temple’’ Bhopal gas survivors have said.
Addressing a press conference here on Tuesday, leaders of the five organisations of survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal expressed the hope that Modi would visit the disaster site and surrounding contaminated area, and meet with the representatives of survivors’ organisations during his maiden visit to the city as Prime Minister on September 10.
Through an application to the Collector, the organisations have sought a 15 minute meeting with Modi to discuss issues of compensation, criminal justice and the clean up of toxic waste.
Considered one of the world’s worst industrial disasters, over 2,500 people were killed immediately and over 50,000 exposed to toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas that leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide unit in Bhopal on December 3, 1984. However, people have been dying since then due to the toxic effects of 42 tonnes of MIC which was released into the atmosphere at that time. Unofficial estimates suggest over 25,000 people have died since then due to gas leak-related effects.
Rashida Bee, president of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh said, “From 1st August 2014 to 17th March 2015 we have sent 6 petitions to the Prime Minister and have acknowledgements of three but response to none. We urged him to provide ex gratia relief of Rs 1 lakh to all those gas victims who were only paid Rs 25,000 as compensation. However all that happened was our petition was redirected to the Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers,” she said.
“We have done our best to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the burning issue of environmental contamination around the abandoned factory site. This toxic contamination is finding new victims every day in Bhopal but the Prime Minister has not taken a single step to make Dow Chemical clean up Bhopal”, said Balkrishna Namdeo of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogee Sangharsh Morcha
Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action said that the worst disappointment they have faced with the present Prime Minister is with regard to the abysmal performance of the CBI which comes under the PMO. “Under Mr Modi’s charge the CBI has deliberately abandoned the bribery case against Dow Chemical’s Indian subsidiary, twice failed to make Dow Chemical appear in the criminal case and has not once argued the case for enhancement of punishment of Indian officials of Union Carbide.” she said.
“Despite this gloomy history we are hopeful that the Prime Minister will make an effort to know first hand about the current condition of the victims and the status of the contaminated factory site. We hope he will make an attempt to resolve the long pending issues of compensation, clean-up and punishment of killer Carbide.”, said Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha