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Bhopal victims call off agitation after meeting PM

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 17: Survivors of Bhopal gas tragedy, who had been on an indefinite hunger strike and were staging a sit-in here, today called off their agitation after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured them that a majority of their demands will be met.

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, a coordinating agency with power and finances to implement medical, economic rehabilitation programmes and setting up a memorial, would be met.

However, Dr Singh turned down their other two demands, speedy prosecution of the accused and Dow and Union Carbide be barred 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.... its 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 turning down their two demands.

''The Prime Minister expressed his inability to take action against Dow Chemicals and Union Carbide as it is an 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.

He 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).


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