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02 December 2011

Bhopal Gas Tragedy survivors to set fire replica of London Olympic stadium to unwrap ‘Dow Olympics’

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Indefinite ‘Train Blockade’ from 3rd Dec. to mark 27th Anniversary

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: A replica of the 2012 London Olympic stadium proposed to be “wrapped” by Dow Chemical will be set on fire to unwrap “Dow Olympics” on the eve of observance of the 27th Anniversary of the December 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the world’s worst industrial disaster which killed thousands of people, here on December 2.

Addressing a joint press conference five NGOs (Non-Government organizations) working for the welfare of the survivors of the Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal, the state capital of central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, announced their plans of observing the 27th Anniversary of the continuing disaster. They said this year their main target is Dow Chemical Company that took over Union Carbide in 2001 and continues to evade civil, criminal and environmental liabilities in Bhopal.

The survivors’ organizations demanded that the Indian government oppose the sponsorship of London Olympics 2012 by Dow Chemical and make the company pay adequate sums for the death and injuries caused by the Union Carbide disaster.

The organizations said that there will be a rally of the survivors and their supporters from Bharat Talkies crossing to Union Carbide’s abandoned factory on December 2nd starting at noon. National Olympians M/s Ashok Dhyanchand, Syed Jalaluddin Rizvi, Sameer Daad and a member of the London Assembly, Mr. Navin Shah will be part of the rally. A replica of the London Olympic stadium proposed to be “wrapped” by Dow Chemical will be taken with the rally.

The 27th Anniversary rally will end in a public meeting in front of the Union Carbide factory where the wrap will be set on fire to unwrap “Dow Olympics”. Chairman of the London Olympics organizing committee Lord Sebastian Coe will be burnt in effigy as a mouthpiece of Dow Chemical.

On 3rd December the organizations will be stopping all trains passing through Bhopal in support of their demand for adequate compensation from Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. They will be protesting against the downplaying of the figures of death and extent of injuries caused to the victims by the central and state governments in the soon to be heard Curative Petition in the Supreme Court of India.

The “Rail Roko” (train blockade) agitation will be peaceful and will continue till the governments agree to present correct information on damage caused by the Bhopal disaster, the organizations said.

The organizations have earlier organized rallies and a citywide shut down demanding that the Indian government ask for 8.1 billion dollars instead of 1.2 billion dollars from Dow and Union Carbide. The organizations charged the government with colluding with the American multinationals and selling out the victims.

The organizations said that while the government is doing its best to protect the interests of the American corporations, it remains apathetic towards the medical care and social, economic and environmental rehabilitation of the victims of the gas disaster and those poisoned due to Union Carbide’s recklessly dumped hazardous wastes. They called for national and international pressure to be brought upon both the Indian government and Dow Chemical to stop the disasters in Bhopal.

Survivors pointed out that figures of exposure related deaths and injuries in the curative petition filed by the Central and the Madhya Pradesh Government are without any basis and are not consistent with the actual damage caused by the disaster. The government’s curative petition mentions a figure of 5,295 deaths caused by the disaster which happens to be one fourth of the figures of death reported by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in its epidemiological report published in 2004. Likewise the government’s report presents the ridiculously low figure of 42 persons with injuries of utmost severity whereas as per the ICMR report this number is well above 33,000.

The representatives of five organizations viz. Ms Rashida Bi of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Nawab Khan of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Balkrishna Namdeo of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Satinath Sarangi & Ms Rachna Dhingra Bhopal Group for Information & Action and Ms Safreen Khan Children Against Dow Carbide jointly addressed the joint Press conference.

Meanwhile, members of the Sambhavna Trust, which is providing free medical care to survivors of the Gas Disaster for the last 15 years, are organising various programmes on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the disaster on December 2.

According to the Sambhavna trust members they would be creating awareness on the health and healthcare of people affected by this gas disaster and groundwater contamination as well as on the chemical hazards in the city. They said that on December 2, they will take part in the survivors' rally with a poster exhibition and street plays. On the same evening, the members will pay homage to the persons killed by the gas disaster by holding a candlelight vigil.

While speaking on the specialties of the Sambhavna Clinic, pediatrician Dr. Mohammad Waseem said that at Sambhavna, survivors are provided appropriate treatment through Allopathic, Ayurvedic and Yoga systems of healthcare. He said Sambhavna was the only healthcare facility in the city that exclusively provided for gas victims and those poisoned by chemicals from Union Carbide's recklessly dumped hazardous waste.

Dr. Waseem said that treatment protocols for over a dozen most common symptom complexes among the victims of Union Carbide's poisons have been developed at Sambhavna. He said that through Ayurveda and Panchakarma (herbal detoxification procedures) incurable illnesses such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and paralysis are treated successfully at Sambhavna.

He stated that a large part of the Ayurvedic medicines prescribed at their clinic are produced at the clinic itself using methods outlined in ancient texts. The herbs needed to manufacture the medicines are grown in the clinic garden without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

Dr. Waseem said that the Sambhavna Clinic is fully computerised to constantly improve treatment and health monitoring facilities. He said that the community health workers of Sambhavna carry out screening for cervical cancers, control of TB and malaria and health education with the participation of community health volunteers.

It may be recalled here that 40 tones of methyl isocyanate, (MIC – a highly volatile toxic chemical), gas spewed from the pesticide plant – owned by Union Carbide India Limited, (UCIL), a subsidiary of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), USA – in the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984. The gas leak killed 3,000 people instantly and more than 25,000 over the years and inflicting grievous injuries on countless others. Many were deformed for life and many children born with the toxic effect are sick and with congenital malformations. It also affected 100,000 people that night and estimates are that more than 500,000 continue to suffer till date.

[Pervez Bari is a senior Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Madhya Pradesh). He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

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