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Bhopal gas tragedy survivors continue to demand justice

Contrary to the capricious idea that Warren Anderson’s recent death in Florida, USA this year would bury all answers on Bhopal, survivors of Bhopal gas tragedy are not ready to give up easily in demanding answers and justice. In the past thirty years they now have more supporters in favour of their demands.

They now want John Mcdonald, present secretary Union Carbide Corporation US and Dow Chemical Company to come to Bhopal district court. The court has issued summons against Dow recently.

Anderson who was seen as villain of 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, died in Florida, USA on September 29. The non-government organisations and survivors regret that the 92 year old Anderson died unshackled making their pain severer.

They would now never be able to see a possibility that he could have answered to the mystery as to who ensured his safe passage from Bhopal. Throughout his life he kept on changing his residences to avoid subpoenas.

Four days after the disaster, Anderson appeared in Bhopal and was arrested immediately. But he was let off within hours of his arrest, allegedly after some senior government leader in Delhi called up then chief minister Arjun Singh. He managed to escape allegedly under safe passage of few officials and politicians. The controversy imbibed Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narsimha Rao, former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Arjun Singh and the then US president Ronald Regan. None of them is alive to authenticate that day’s dramatic account.

Arjun Singh always refused to name the caller that triggered many speculations. Even in his autobiography he kept the subject of Anderson’s possible arrest under ambiguity. “It is a state secret that I shall carry to my grave,” he wrote.

Washington rejected extradition of Anderson first in 1992 and later the Indian government’s request in 2011 remained pending.

Survivors like Champa Devi and Rashida Bee burst out with anger and poignancy as both had lost their family members to the tragedy.

“Instead of putting that murderer of Bhopal behind bars for the rest of his life, our governments not only provided him safe passage but also failed to bring him to justice during the past thirty years,” they rued.

The joint recipient of the 2004 Goldman Environmental Prize, also known as “Green Nobel” both the courageous ladies have not lost their hopes that the new government will at least bring the absconding Union Carbide Corporation and its secretary John Macdonald and officials of Dow Chemical Company to Bhopal district court for fixing liabilities against the grave criminal negligence.

Another activist Satinath Sarangi, also known as Satyu; who left his PhD in Metallurgical Engineering mid-way during 1984 and joined the struggle of survivors, says, “We cannot give up easily. Had the government made proper efforts to ease the pain of the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors, we should not be required here. This is not the question of issues, but of human lives and that too of our next generations?”

Even after three decades, Satyu, Champa Devi and Rashida Bi have not lost an ounce of strength in raising their voices against injustice. Their struggle is punctuated by talks with higher authorities, media, social activists across the globe and demonstrations at Delhi and Bhopal. Besides, they render support to the victims in ensuring them medical care and welfare through their organisations.

All the three have withstood against all odds during the last three decades.

They have a detailed account of day-to-day sufferings of people, while their fellow survivors and activists wave posters and shouted slogans outside the abandoned Union Carbide factory the three keep on raising issues that come up as an outcome of disaster.

The poisonous gas methyl isocyanate leaked from the factory on December 2-3 night, 1984, is estimated to have claimed 5295 (according to official figures) and 25,000 lives (activists’ and other records) and left more than half-a-million injured. The struggle is continued against the second disaster — soil and water contamination — the long-term effects of the tragedy. Rachna Dhingra, another activist who also has covered a long distance to show her solidarity for survivors, is engaged in a survey that has startling findings.

“They are dying at young, say, between 45-50 years age bracket,” she says, “Our primary findings in one kilometer radius of the factory reveal that surviors died of diseases like cancer, pulmonary, liver and kidney disorders; birth deformities at early age. What continue to torment and kill them is a well-known fact.”

All the activists and those who are determined to fight want nothing as a fresh dole but employment and medical support.

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