29th anniversary of the Bhopal Gas tragedy

Condemn the Indian state's callous negligence towards the victims and shameful collaboration with the criminal perpetrators

The people of our country can never forget the Bhopal gas tragedy that occurred 29 years ago, nor forgive the Indian state and its agencies for their shameful collaboration with the perpetrators and their callous indifference towards the plight of the victims.

It may be recalled that on the midnight of December 2-3,1984, a mixture of methyl isocyanate (MIC) and other poisonous gases spewed out from the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) plant in Bhopal resulted in exposure of more than half a million people to toxic gas and harmful chemicals. Most of these were workers at the plant, living in bastis around the plant site. More than 35,000 people living in and around the plant site have since died from gas-related diseases, while nearly 3 lakh continue to suffer from chronic illnesses.

The response of the Indian state to this whole tragedy has been criminally callous. All the assurances and promises made in these 28 years by successive governments at the Centre and the state have been blatantly violated. Nearly three decades after the disaster, neither the State nor the Central Government has made any attempt to either undertake a comprehensive assessment of the ramifications of the Bhopal disaster or to take necessary remedial measures. As a result, the gas-victims have had to wage concerted struggles in their quest for medical relief, compensation, rehabilitation and justice. They continue to face the effects of the toxic materials through the soil and water, as the state is yet to organize for the removal of the toxic waste from the site and for the supply of clean water to the residents of Bhopal.

Not only have the central and state governments been criminally negligent towards the health needs of the gas victims, there has been no serious monitoring of the health condition of the victims. Despite several reports by various organisations of the people working among the victims and persistent demands to the central and state government authorities, the response has been tragically inadequate.

In response to the demands of the victims’ families and affected survivors for compensation from Union Carbide in the aftermath of the tragedy, the Indian government had claimed that it would act on behalf of all of them and use its authority to sue the company for damages. However, Union Carbide got away with paying a mere 470 million dollars (Rs.750 crore) to the Indian government in 1989 in a settlement reached after a protracted legal battle. This settlement has been denounced by many organizations as a sell-out by the Indian government, of the interests of the victims and their families. According to this settlement, the victims were paid Rs. 25,000 in case of illness and Rs.1 lakh to the next of kin of those dead. As has been reported, in many cases the promised compensation has not yet reached the people it was intended for.

Twenty-one years after the unjust Bhopal Settlement of 14/15 February 1989, the Union of India decided to file a curative petition before the Supreme Court on 03.12.2010, against the terms of the Compensation Settlement on the plea that the Settlement was based on underestimated figures of the dead and injured. But UCC managed to get away by filing an affidavit saying that compensation was given more than four years after the accident, and that this period provided the government sufficient time to assess the damages.

The Indian state’s shameless defence of the interests of the Indian and foreign monopolies at the expense of its people is amply shown by the fact that it made no serious effort to hold the company in India – Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) nor its parent company in the US, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) responsible for this genocide. On the contrary, it facilitated the escape from India of the then UCC chief Warren Anderson.

The victims of the Bhopal tragedy and countless others in India and abroad, who have been actively supporting them, have not let up on their struggle for compensation, for the demand to punish UCC and UCIL. From time to time, the Indian government has been forced to address these concerns through announcements and intentions; but the absence of any action on these further proves its anti-people criminal nature.

In 2002, the government made an announcement that it had decided to initiate extradition proceedings against former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson in connection with the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. Not only has Anderson’s extradition and trial remained an empty promise, the June 26, 2012 judgement by a US Federal Court – that UCC cannot be held liable for the damages caused by the toxic wastes dumped in Bhopal nor be ordered to clean these up -- has ensured that UCC can wash its hands off completely. DOW chemicals, which had taken over UCC in 2001, obtained the Indian government’s assurance in 2006 that it would not be held liable for the mass murder in Bhopal. In fact investigations have revealed that UCIL, in full agreement with its parent company, neglected various safety rules, quality control and training methods, and that several accidents causing death and serious injuries had been reported earlier from the same plant, but these had been blatantly ignored.

The Central and State Governments have also failed to address the huge social, economic and human problems that confronts the chronically sick, the elderly, the differently abled, the widowed, and other vulnerable sections among the gas-victims. The pittance, which was disbursed as compensation in most instances to these sections was never enough to take care of their daily needs. Finding gainful employment in accordance with the reduced capacity to work and to lead a dignified life continues to be a serious challenge for them.

Mazdoor Ekta Lehar condemns the Indian states’ callous negligence towards the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy and its shameful collaboration with the criminal perpetrators. We, the workers, peasants and toiling people cannot have any illusions that this state, which is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, will defend their interests and punish the criminals responsible for this genocide. Only when we, the workers and peasants and toiling masses have political power in our hands, can we ensure this.

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Punish the Guilty    Bhopal Gas Tragedy    Dec 16-31 2013    Struggle for Rights    Popular Movements    

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