Monday, November 29, 1999

Victims press long pending demands for justice, dignity

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Seven organisations representing gas tragedy victims came together on one platform on Thursday to say that they expected the group of ministers (GoM) to address issues of justice and opportunities for a life of dignity for survivors."We hope the increased national and international awareness on the negligence of successive central and state governments over the last 25 years will inspire you to consider our long pending demands," they said in a memorandum to the chairman and members of the GoM.They renewed their demand for an Empowered Commission on Bhopal (ECoB) with adequate authority and funds to design and implement plans for medical care, training and employment generation, monthly pension for the needy, supply of clean drinking water and protection from poison in the soil and ground water in and around the abandoned Union Carbide plant. The last GoM under Arjun Singh has already approved an ECoB at its meeting on June 11, 2008.Demanding more compensation, they said there is documentary evidence to show that the settlement amount of $470 million was not decided on the basis of deaths and injuries but on the ease with which the Union Carbide corporation could pay the amount from its insurance coverage and special funds. They said the actual dead toll and injured was five times more than the figures on which the settlement was based. It said that exposure related deaths continue to occur today but the registration of deaths was stopped way back in 1997.Demanding clean drinking water within 3 km of the plant, they said despite the SC orders to this effect, and allocation of Rs 20 crore, more than 20,000 people were still drinking contaminated water. They said 12 government-sponsored and independent studies from 1990 to 2009 by the Centre for Science and Environment have proved contamination, and demanded that hazardous waste on the premises be cleaned up.

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