PANNA: Action Alert: Support Bhopal Hunger Strikers
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
Three Bhopal activists, including two women injured in the 1984 disaster, have been on a hunger strike since June 28, 2002, a day of protest at the Indian Parliament in New Delhi is planned for July 10. This effort has a special urgency because the Indian government has sent two major signals that Union Carbide/Dow may be released from responsibility for Bhopal.
The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation recently proposed to reduce the charges of manslaughter pending against Anderson to "causing injuries." This would remove the possibility of extradition for the ex-Union Carbide CEO who has dropped out of sight since being charged by both India and the U.S. in a civil case brought by survivors.
On June 8, 2002 a high level Indian Cabinet also decided to distribute unspent compensation funds to an additional 20 areas of the city which were not affected by the gas, possibly to gain additional political support, and plans to use compensation funds to clean up the soil and ground water contaminated by the abandoned plant.
Activists charge that the compensation fund was never intended to pay for clean up--which remains the responsibility of Union Carbide and its new parent company, Dow Chemical. The recent government decision effectively lets Dow off the hook for cleaning up a community in which 225,000 people continue to live.
The Indian government originally set the compensation funds at US$3 billion dollars, but court proceedings brought that down to US$470 million, which was paid to the Indian government by Union Carbide in 1989. However, 95% of the victims have been compensated only US$500 each for their loss and/or continuing illness.
Survivors hope an international protest will prevent the Indian government from quietly letting Union Carbide, Dow Chemical and Walter Anderson off the hook, and will protect the compensation fund for the real victims of the disaster. "That money belongs to our families, it should not be wasted away," said Tarabai Yadav, 35, a hunger striker who was pregnant in 1984 and had a miscarriage after exposure to the gas. Yadav, who received US$500 in compensation, has not been able to conceive again.
The Bhopal Disaster
Near midnight on December 2, 1984, 40 tons of methyl isocyanate (MIC)--a highly toxic chemical--escaped from a tank at the Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing plant in Bhopal, India. The poison gas cloud spread over the sleeping city of 800,000. As the heavy gas flowed at ground level, hundreds of thousands awakened, coughing, wheezing and vomiting. Eyes burned, many were temporarily blinded. At least 2,500 people were killed immediately, and more than 30,000 were seriously injured or disabled. In the 18 years since the world's worst industrial disaster, the mortality has climbed to more than 20,000. Many survivors continue to suffer from tuberculosis, impaired vision, fatigue, depression, and stomach and gynecological problems.
In February 2000, Union Carbide merged with Dow Chemical Company. Dow has not accepted responsibility for Union Carbide's liabilities, refusing to take responsibility for a factory that they did not operate. Survivors say Dow has taken over both the assets and the liabilities of Union Carbide, and should be held accountable for all pending medical and environmental liabilities in Bhopal.
How To Lend Your Voice:
Join this effort by sending a fax to the Indian government through the CorpWatch India Web site: http://www.corpwatchindia.org/action/PAA.jsp?articleid=1843
Call the Indian Embassy or Consulate in your city.
Ask the Indian government to:
CorpWatchindia, Building Global Links for Justice; Web site http://www.corpwatchindia.org; Remember-bhopal mailing list; email Rememberfirstname.lastname@example.org; Web site http://lists.essential.org/mailman/listinfo/remember-bhopal; "India Seeks to Reduce Charge Facing Ex-Union Carbide Boss: Bhopal Survivors Stage Protest Over Lessened Accusation," The Washington Post, July 8, 2002; Press Release, July 9, 2002, Pesticide Information Updates, PAN UK.
Indra Sinha, Bhopal Medical Appeal; email email@example.com;
Tim Edwards, Bhopal Justice Campaign UK; email firstname.lastname@example.org.PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.
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