Bhopal: A march was taken out near the now- defunct Union Carbide plant in Bhopal to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, with the protestors demanding proper rehabilitation of children born with deformities post the toxic leak.
They also sought proper medical care, adequate compensation and cleaning of the groundwater and soil which became contaminated after the incident.
Various events were also held to mark the anniversary in the state capital.
In what is termed as the world’s worst industrial disaster, over 15,000 people were killed after methyl isocynate leaked on the intervening night of December 23, 1984, from the pesticide plant of the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) in the city.
More than five lakh people were affected due to the toxic leak. “The protesters who participated in the march voiced concern about the inadequate compensation and demanded proper medical care, rehabilitation of children born with congenital malformations, employment and pension, punishment to the guilty corporates, and cleaning the contaminated groundwater and soil,” said Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA).
A total of five organisations, comprising the survivors of the tragedy, participated in the march that began from an area adjacent to the factory.
The bodies that participated in the march were the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha and the Children Against Dow Carbide, apart from the BGIA.
Issuing a joint statement, the five organisations accused the Madhya Pradesh and central governments of a “criminal neglect” of victims and of “collusion” with the Union Carbide’s current owner Dow Chemical.
“The reason for the increased official apathy towards the Bhopal victims in the last three years is because half of them are Muslims while an overwhelming majority of affected Hindus are from lower castes,” the statement alleged.
The protesters burnt an effigy bearing logos of Union Carbide, Dow Chemical and DuPont on the occasion.
The Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan (BGPMUS) organised a condolence meet at Yadgar-e-Shahejahani Park.
Addressing the gathering, BGPMUS convenor Abdul Jabbar demanded that the state government file a petition against the corporates responsible for the tragedy.
“The state government should file a petition (against the corporates responsible for this tragedy) asking for the compensation for the environmental damage caused to the soil and a solar evaporation pond, which are government properties.
The government needs to conduct a scientific survey on this,” Mr Jabbar said.
The BGPMUS also submitted a memorandum to Minister of State for Gas Tragedy Vishwas Sarang seeking pension for the disabled who were born with congenital deformities and also raised other demands.
An all-faith prayer meeting was held at Barkatullah Bhavan. Addressing this meet, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the pension to the gas victims’ widows would continue.
The state government had initially introduced monthly pension of Rs 1,000 for the widows for a period of five years.
“Such tragedies are born out of a blind race for the development. Therefore, a balance between development an environment is necessary. We should resolve that no such tragedy will happen again,” the chief minister said.
The BGPMUS, however, demanded that the pension for widows should be doubled to Rs 2,000 per month.