New Delhi, August 8 : Survivors of the Bhopal Gas tragedy, one of the worst industrial tragedies in the country on Friday celebrated government assurance to set up a commission to look into the grievances of the victims.
More than 3,500 people died in the days and weeks after toxic fumes spewed out of a pesticide plant in Bhopal on the night of December 2, 1984.
Officials say nearly 15,000 people have died from cancer and other diseases since then.
Activists have put the toll at 33,000 and claim that toxins from thousands of tonnes of chemicals lying in and around the site have seeped into ground water.
The activists fighting for the victims rejoiced after Union Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Ram Vilas Paswan met them and told them about the decision of the government to set up a commission.
"One of the demands of the activists was to form an empower commission. The government has decided to form the commission. We have asked the State government to arrange for the office of the commission and as soon as that is done the commission will start working," Paswan told reporters in New Delhi.
"Secondly, there was an allegation that the Dow Chemicals has registered four insecticides with the Agricultural Ministry. The Ministry has taken note of it and called for a Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) inquiry into it," he added.
D. Raja, a senior Communist leader accompanied Paswan who assured the protesters that his party will ensure that the decisions of the committee are implemented properly.
"The empowered commission which has been accepted by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government should not be one of those commissions set up by the government finally forgotten and this commission will have to address the demands raised by the victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. If the commission does not work and do justice for the victims of tragedy then my party, Communist Party of India will take up the issue once again in the parliament and we will fight the government," Raja said.
Union Carbide in 1984 accepted moral responsibility for the tragedy and established a 100 million dollars charitable trust fund to build a hospital for the victims. Later Union Carbide was taken over by Dow Chemicals.
The company also paid 470 million dollars to the government in 1989 in a settlement reached after a protracted legal battle. The victims were paid 25,000 rupees in case of illness and 100,000 rupees or so to the next of kin of those killed.
Michigan-based Dow Chemical says it is not responsible for the clean up as it never owned or operated the plant.
The Madhya Pradesh government now owns the abandoned plant.