Will March 900 Kilometers to Delhi for Justice
(Beyond Pesticides, February 13, 2006) On February 20, 2006, 150 survivors of the December 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal will begin marching on foot to New Delhi demanding justice and a life of dignity for the people poisoned by American multinational Union Carbide Corporation. The march is being organized by four Bhopal based organizations (Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information and Action and Bhopal ki Aawaaz) and will also include people affected by ground water contamination from Union Carbide’s abandoned factory in Bhopal.
The Bhopal marchers are expecting to reach New Delhi by the last week of March where they will seek to have a meeting with the Prime Minister. Depending on the response from the central government, the marchers may go on an indefinite fast at the end of their 900 kilometer long march. There have been others who resulted to fasting in their quest for justice as a result of the Union Carbide disaster. In May 2003, Bhopal survivors and leaders of the trade union Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Workers Association, and long-time Bhopal activist Satinath Sarangi, launched a fast at a demonstration in New York's financial district in their demand for justice (See Daily News). The four Bhopal based organizations have a six-point charter of demands to present to the Prime Minister.
According to a press statement issued by the Bhopal based organizations, the first demand of the marchers consists of setting up a National Commission on Bhopal that will include the necessary authority and funds to provide for health care facilities, economic rehabilitation, medical research and social support. The groups are calling for active participation of non-government doctors and scientists and representatives of survivors’ organization in the National Commission and they want it to function for at least the next thirty years. The most urgent demand in their six- point charter is the supply of piped water from Kolar reservoir in the 16 communities affected by toxic contamination of ground water.
In their meeting with the Prime Minister, the marchers will demand the creation of a Special Cell in the Central Investigation Bureau for speedy prosecution of the Union Carbide Corporation, Warren Anderson and others accused in the criminal case for the December 1984 disaster. They are also planning to call upon the central government to ensure scientific assessment of the depth and spread of toxic contamination and to make Union Carbide’s current owner, The Dow Chemical Company, pay compensation for the health and environmental damage caused as a result of their reckless dumping of chemical wastes.
The Bhopal campaigners are also demanding that the government stop purchasing Dow Chemical’s Dursban brand insecticide and other products until they accept the pending liabilities of Bhopal. The survivors are also marching to demand that the central government declare December 3rd as a National Day of Mourning for victims of industrial disasters and include the impacts of the disaster in educational curricula. .
New Delhi based supporters of the Bhopal survivors are planning to convey the demands of the marchers to the Central government on a daily basis until their demands are met. Nationwide supporters of the Bhopal campaign are planning rallies, meetings and signature campaigns in solidarity with the Delhi Padyatra. International supporters in the United States, Europe, Japan and other countries will take part in actions and demonstrations before Indian embassies abroad.
The actual route for the Delhi Padyatra has been chalked out with a view to making connections that identify the other pollution- impacted communities along the way. The marchers also plan to organize poster exhibitions, film screenings and public meetings in an on-going effort to generate awareness around the need for justice in Bhopal and for prevention of corporate crime everywhere.
For additional stories on the disaster in Bhopal by Beyond Pesticides see: Hunger Strike Calls Attention to Horror and Death in Bhopal. Two Women Survivors of Bhopal disaster On Hunger Strike/Photo Stories. The Culture of Make Believe.