The following is some recent news, background, and a video about the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India which killed over 20,000 people and left over 100,000 severely disabled.
Background: (from www.studentsforbhopal.org)
On December 3rd, 1984, thousands of people in Bhopal, India, were gassed to death after a catastrophic chemical leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant. More than 150,000 people (1) were left severely disabled – of whom 22,000 (2) have since died of their injuries – in a disaster now widely acknowledged as the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster.
More than 27 tons (3) of methyl isocyanate and other deadly gases turned Bhopal into a gas chamber. None of the six safety systems at the plant were functional, (4) and Union Carbide’s own documents prove the company designed the plant with ‘unproven’ and ‘untested’ technology, and cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to save money.
Today, twenty years after the Bhopal disaster, at least 50,000 people (5) are too sick to work for a living, and a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (pdf) confirmed that the children of gas-affected parents are themselves afflicted by Carbide’s poison.
Carbide is still killing in Bhopal. The chemicals that Carbide abandoned in and around their Bhopal factory have contaminated the drinking water of 20,000 people (6). Testing published in a 2002 report revealed poisons such as 1,3,5 trichlorobenzene, dichloromethane, chloroform, lead and mercury in the breast milk of nursing women (doc) living near the factory.
Although Dow Chemical acquired Carbide’s liabilities when it purchased the company in 2001 (7), it still refuses to address its liabilities in Bhopal – or even admit that they exist. Till date, Dow-Carbide has refused to:
1) Clean up the site, which continues to contaminate those near it, or to provide just compensation for those who have been injured or made ill by this poison;
2) Fund medical care, health monitoring and necessary research studies, or even to provide all the information it has on the leaked gases and their medical consequences;
3) Provide alternate livelihood opportunities to victims who can not pursue their usual trade because of their exposure-induced illnesses;
4) Stand trial before the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Bhopal, where Union Carbide faces criminal charges of culpable homicide (manslaughter), and has fled these charges for the past 15 years.
March 05, 2007 – Six representatives of survivors of the Union Carbide Gas Disaster go on an indefinite hunger strike until demands of the ‘Right to Live’ campaign are met
March 13 – Chief Minister promises that all “logical and lawful demands” will be met, survivors say that all their demands are indeed logical and lawful and that the fast will end only when they are accepted
March 17 – Hunger strikers being strapped to beds in hospital to force feed them: police used violence during the arrests and threatened to rape women supporters
March 19 – Bhopal hunger strikers end their fast as the State government agrees to implement key demands…
After fourteen days of fasting to press their demands for water, medical care and rehabilitation for the people poisoned by Union Carbide in Bhopal, six of the “Right to Live” campaigners today broke their indefinite fast. The decision to end the fast and the 27 day long dharna was taken after the state government accepted key demands of the four organisations of survivors of the December 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal. The fasters accepted glasses of juice from the District Collector, Mr S K Mishra who was authorised by the Chief Minister to negotiate with the representatives of the four organisations. On behalf of the state government the Collector handed over a written response to each of the demands raised by the four organizations.
As per the agreement reached with the state government, immediate steps will be taken to fill vacant posts in the hospitals meant for gas affected people and to improve quality of medicines and facilities for investigations there. Doctors and specialists at the gas relief hospitals will now be contracted for five years in place of the current practice of contracting for two years. The government has also agreed to vacate the 152 work sheds in the Special Industrial Area within three months to establish employment generating industries within a year. Additionally, the state government will help survivors form Self Help Groups that will carry out production activities and survivors will be given priority in granting loans and subsidies through existing self employment schemes.
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