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News :: Environment : Environment : Human Rights : Organizing
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION CALLS ON GOVERNMENT OF INDIA TO AID VICTIMS OF BHOPAL DISASTER
24 Feb 2004
Today, in an international day of action, students and concerned citizens delivered petitions, made phone calls, and met with leading officials from the Indian government, including its President, to demand that it release $300 million in compensation money to the survivors of the Bhopal disaster, and supply them with safe drinking water. The day of action was organized by Students for Bhopal, a member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, to protest decades of governmental inaction.
Today, in an international day of action, students and concerned citizens delivered petitions, made phone calls, and met with leading officials from the Indian government, including its President, to demand that it release $300 million in compensation money to the survivors of the Bhopal disaster, and supply them with safe drinking water. The day of action was organized by Students for Bhopal, a member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, to protest decades of governmental inaction.

The world’s worst-ever industrial disaster devastated the Indian city of Bhopal nearly 20 years ago, in 1984. More than half a million people were exposed to the deadly gas released from a Union Carbide factory there; of those, 20,000 have died and 150,000 were maimed. Dangerous chemicals and heavy metals left abandoned by Union Carbide at the factory site have contaminated the drinking water supply for 20,000 people; these chemicals are now being passed on to the next generation through the breast milk of nursing women. Although the government installed ten overhead tanks as a safe drinking water supply, it has yet to install the proper piping so that people can have access to it. In 1989, Union Carbide settled with the Indian government for $470 million, but fifteen years later, more than $300 million remains undistributed in the settlement fund, including $84 million in interest. The Bhopal gas victims have a legal right to receive this money, but any distribution requires the cooperation of the Indian government.

Students at 20 high schools and colleges in the United States placed hundreds of phone calls to the Indian Embassy and Consulates, demanding that the government release compensation funds to the Bhopal survivors and supply them with safe drinking water. Fifteen students in India met simultaneously with the Governor of the state of Madhya Pradesh, which includes Bhopal, and presented him with a petition demanding the same. In Delhi, will be staging a follow up demonstration and press conference on Wednesday. In Canada, more than a dozen students at McGill University wrote letters to the High Commission of India in Canada to demand justice for the people of Bhopal.

“It’s a travesty that the Indian government hasn’t distributed even half of the compensation money to the victims after fifteen years, and that it has stood by for more than a decade while its citizens are forced to drink dangerously contaminated water,” said Matt Lehrich, an organizer with Students for Bhopal. “This is far beyond incompetence--it represents a callous disregard for the rights of its citizens and the value of human life. The Indian Government, if it has any conscience, will act now to alleviate further suffering, contamination, and death.”

More information about the Bhopal disaster and campaign can be found at www.bhopal.net and www.studentsforbhopal.org.
See also:
http://www.studentsforbhopal.org
http://www.bhopal.net

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