Bhopal gas victims call off agitation after meeting PM

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New Delhi, Apr 17 (UNI) Survivors of Bhopal gas tragedy, who had been on a 20-day sit-in and a seven-day indefinite hunger strike here, today called off their agitation after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accepted four of their six demands.

Representatives of the survivors met the Prime Minister this morning for about 25 minutes where Dr Singh assured them that four of their six demands-- clean drinking water, clean up of the contaminated site, setting up of a national commission for medical and economic rehabilitation and setting up a memorial-- would be met.

''The Prime Minister assured them that the Government will do everything for the welfare of the victims,'' PMO spokesperson said.

However, Dr Singh turned down their other two demands-- prosecution of the accused and banning Dow and Union Carbide from introducing any processes, technologies or products developed by or owned by Union Carbide into India.

The survivors were staging a sit-in since March 29 and had also started an indefinite hunger strike since April 11.

''We are calling off the entire agitation which includes the seven day hunger strike by some survivors and our supporters in other countries, because Dr Singh accepted majority of our demands....it's a day of celebration for us,'' spokesperson for four Bhopal gas victims' organisations Nityanand Jayaraman said here this afternoon.

However, he also expressed grave disappointment over the Prime Minister's decision to turn down their other two demands.

''The Prime Minister expressed his inability to take action against Dow Chemicals and Union Carbide as it is a foreign-based multinational. But he told us that all legal options will be explored in that regard,'' Mr Jayaraman said.

''Dr Singh told us that he is powerless to do anything about the MNC... India has to survive despite such tragedies. Please leave politics to politicians,'' the spokesperson said.

Satinath Sarangi, one of the victims on hunger strike and 39 people who walked 800 km from Bhopal to Delhi, said,''we are ashamed and outraged that the Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy has openly admitted his inability to pressure an American MNC... There is no point in directing our protest against a man who has expressed his powerlessmess on this matter''.

Mr Jayaraman said the survivors will now take the agitation directly to Dow Chemicals and Union Carbide and protest at their sites and offices all across India.

''We will take recourse to legal action and also stage protests...,'' he added.

On April 11, as many as six victims had gone on an indefinite hunger strike in the capital while a supporter in the US, Diane Wilson, was sitting on indefinite hunger strike in University of Texas.

She had threatened to continue her strike outside the Indian embassy in Washington.

One of the six hunger strikers, Champa Shukla, had walked 800 km to Delhi to participate in the protest.

Besides, French-American national Josh Imeson, who was undertaking a three-day fast, decided to extend it for three more days.

On April 14, filmstar Aamir Khan had also joined the demonstrators to lend his support.

In 1984, toxic MIC gas leaked from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal that killed about 8,000 people on the night of December 3, leaving some 200,000 others chronically disabled.

Pressure from the survivors had already blocked a 1.5 million dollars deal between Indian Oil and Dow Chemical in July 2005, according to activists from the Association for India's Development (AID).

UNI NR MA KN1845

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