Published On:16 January 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Upset at GoM decision Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims burn Chidambaram’s effigy

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: Expressing their ire vehemently, the victims and survivors of the 1984 December Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the world’s worst industrial catastrophe, against the decision of Group of Ministers, (GoM), on Bhopal of not revising the figures of deaths and injuries caused by the disaster in the curative petition pending before the Supreme Court, burnt effigies of the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Dow Chemical here on Saturday.

The gas victims, who are on an indefinite “dharna” (sit-in) since January 3 last at Yaadgar-e-Shahjahani Park, came out on the road opposite Sultania Zanana Hospital in a menacing mood raising full-throated slogans. They carried along effigies of Chidambaram, who was cast in the form of a dog, and an official of Dow Chemical Company, the present owner of the now abandoned killer Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. The effigies depicted that of a Master (Dow Chemical) and his dog (Chidambaram) with caption reading “Dow Chemical devoted dog Chidambaram”. Soon-after the gas victims led by five NGOs’ representatives working for their welfare put on fire the effigies after giving it a petrol-bath in the middle of a busy road. As a result the vehicular traffic came to a screeching halt.

The upset victims formed a circle round the effigies as it went up in flames and rented the air in high pitch with slogans like: “Hum Apna Huq Mangte, Naa Ke Bheek Mangte”; Kendra Sarkar Hosh Mein Aao, Hosh Mein Aao”; Halla Bol, Halla Bol” etc. Seething with anger and aguish one of the woman victim rained cane over the Chidambaram effigy as it burned to ashes.

Thereafter, at a short distance away another effigy of Chidambaram was put to flames on the road by another NGO led by Abdul Jabbar, convenor of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udhyog Sangathan, (BGPMUS). The whole atmosphere was very much charged as gas victims jostled with each other to unleash their pent up their anger on Central Government, GoM and Chidambaram.

Later, talking to media leaders of survivors’ organizations alleged that Chidambaram has a history of being devoted to Union Carbide’s owner Dow Chemical and called for his removal from the post of Chairman of the GoM.

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.

Rashida Bi, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh said: “The GoM ‘s decision not to present correct numbers of the people Union Carbide has killed and injured in Bhopal is a decision unilaterally imposed by Chidambaram on the entire group. This decision is against data from scientific studies by the government’s own apex research agency Indian Council of Medical Research, (ICMR)”

Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha while presenting a copy of a letter written by Chidambaram to the PMO in 2006 when he was Finance Minister, said: “Chidambaram had written to the Prime Minister to let Dow Chemical walk away from its liabilities in Bhopal. His latest attempt to downplay the damage caused by the American company shows how devoted he continues to be to Dow Chemical Company”.

While commenting on the note submitted by Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission on Dow Chemical, Chidambaram had written to the Prime Minister on December 05, 2006 wherein he said: “Shri Ratan Tata had written to me that we should set up a Site Remediation Fund or Trust to clean up the site at which the Bhopal Gas Tragedy took place. He feels that responsible corporates in the private sector and in the public sector could contribute to this initiative that the Tata’s will be willing to spearhead and contribute to such an exercise. I think we should accept this offer and constitute a Site Remediation Trust under the chairmanship of Shri Ratan Tata and including executives from the private sector and the public sector”.

As such it may be noted that the above note of Chidambaram clearly tried to save Dow Chemical from its responsibility of cleaning up the contaminated site as the owners of Union Carbide by recommending the proposal of Ratan Tata be accepted.

It may be mentioned here that according to the “polluter pays” principle, established in both India and USA, the designer and supervisor of the waste disposal system in the Bhopal factory, Union Carbide continues to be liable for the environmental damage (at least till a distance of 3.5 kilometers from the factory and at least 100 feet deep). Also, it may be pointed out that this was in clear violation of the lease agreement signed with the Madhya Pradesh Government that stipulated returning the land “in its original condition”. As per the “successor liability” principle, again established in both India and USA, as 100 per cent owner of Union Carbide, USA, TDCC (The Dow Chemical Company) is liable for the continuing environmental and health damage in Bhopal. Holding TDCC liable for Union Carbide’s misdeeds, in 2005 the Government of India presented an application before the Madhya Pradesh High Court seeking Rs. 100 crores (22 million USD) from Dow Chemical as an advance for remediation of the toxic contamination in Bhopal. The application lies pending and the money remains unpaid till date.

“Chidambaram was the lawyer for Enron, the most corrupt American corporation, and a Board member of Vedanta, the British company responsible for ecological and human devastation. He should not have been included in the GoM on Bhopal let alone be its Chairman”, said Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action. Her organization is among the five that are calling for removal of Chidambaram as the Chairman of GoM on Bhopal.

Meanwhile, the organizations also sent a copy of a letter addressed to the Chief Minister by the four religious leaders seeking withdrawal of criminal cases against gas victims related to the incident of violence on the 27th Anniversary of the disaster last year.

“Religious leaders of Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs are jointly calling for withdrawal of the criminal cases against 2000 gas victims till the Chief Minister sets up an independent inquiry into the violence on December 3, 2011” said Balkrishna Namdeo, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha who himself has been charged with murderous assault and other grave offences. He pointed out that the district and police authorities have failed to reply to the questions raised by the State Human Rights Commission in this regard.

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 organized the first effigies’ burning programme.

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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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on January 16, 2012. Filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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