Victims of Bhopal gas tragedy protest over government apathy

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New Delhi, May 13 : Victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy along with social activists took out a rally in New Delhi on Tuesday to press for justice and draw attention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh towards their plight.

Victims have stepped up their efforts in the last few months claiming justice and demanding action against companies like Dow Chemicals, new owners of Union Carbid responsible for the world's worst industrial disaster.

Survivors of the tragedy also demanded that the Dow Chemicals should not be allowed to expand its operation in India until justice is meted out to the Bhopal gas victims.

"We are protesting here for long and there are two main demands. Our first demand is the formation of special commission that would take care of the rehabilitation, employment of the people and also making provisions of safe water drinking. Our second demand is that government should prevent the Union Carbide, responsible for the world worst industrial disaster and its new owner, Dow Chemicals to expand its business in India till Bhopal gas victims get justice," said Rachna Dhingra, member of Bhopal Group for Information and Action.

They also expressed anger over the attitude of the Prime Minister who they claim has not lent ears to their problem till now.

At a press conference on Monday the victims urged US-based Dow Chemicals, to pay up for the liabilities of Union Carbide, which it has acquired.

Even the two key ministries, the Ministry of Chemicals, which is the nodal agency on Bhopal gas tragedy and the Ministry of Law, agree that Dow should bear the liabilities of Union Carbide.

More than 3,500 people died in the days and weeks after toxic fumes spewed out of a pesticide plan in Bhopal on the night of December 2, 1984.

Officials say nearly 15,000 people have died since from cancer and other diseases.

Activists put the toll at 33,000 and say toxins from thousands of tonnes of chemicals lying in and around the site have seeped into ground water.

Union Carbide in 1984 accepted moral responsibility for the tragedy and established a 100 million dollars charitable trust fund to build a hospital for victims. Later Union Carbide was taken over by Dow Chemicals.

The company also paid 470 million dollars to the Indian government in 1989 in a settlement reached after a protracted legal battle. The victims, on an average, received 25,000 rupees in case of illness and 100,000 rupees or so in case of a death in the family.

Michigan-based Dow Chemical says it is not responsible for the clean-up as it never owned or operated the plant. The Madhya Pradesh state government now owns the abandoned plant.

ANI

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