Demand US and India governments deliver justice for Bhopal disaster
“I have always wondered what my life would have been like if the Bhopal gas disaster had not happened. From childhood I have seen my father suffer from serious heart problems and my mother face difficulties with her eyesight. I was born ten years after the disaster. But I have seen friends and relatives in my community born with disabilities and deformities.” – Safreen Khan, 20
“We will surely get our rights… I am ready to sacrifice myself, but for the sake of the movement and my poor people, I will not give up the struggle. Until my last breath, until my pulse stops beating, I will not back down from the fight.”- - Rampyari Bai (90). Rampyari’s daughter-in-law was seven months pregnant on the night of the Bhopal gas leak. When the gas hit the community, she suddenly went into labor. She and her baby died in the hospital soon afterwards. Following the gas leak, Rampyari herself has struggled with cancer.
There are certain moments in your life you never forget. I was in my early twenties, living in Bangalore, when I heard the news.
On the night of 2nd December, 1984, toxic gas had leaked from a pesticide factory run by Union Carbide, India Ltd spreading fumes over a large residential area in Bhopal.
Between 7,000 and 10,000 people died within just three days of the leak, our researchers at Amnesty International have since estimated. Hundreds of thousands more were poisoned.
Despite the deaths, the many years gone by, and the numbers of people who today still suffer from chronic health conditions as a result of the leak, justice is yet to be served.
Survivors have not received adequate compensation for their injuries, the polluted factory site has not been cleaned up, and the companies involved have not been held to account.
2014 marked the 30th anniversary of one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.
Thirty years on, it is time that those who failed to prevent responsible for the horrors of Bhopal must be held to account and made to pay. But the central actor, a US corporation, is an absconder from justice.
US-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) has repeatedly refused to face criminal charges of culpable homicide in India. The Dow Chemical Company, which bought UCC in 2001, has shown a similar arrogant disregard for the Indian legal system.
The United States government has acted as a safe haven for UCC and Dow, ignoring its responsibility to ensure that US companies are held accountable for human rights abuses elsewhere in the world.
Meanwhile, the Indian government itself has consistently underestimated the number of people who were killed or injured in the aftermath of the leak, and has also failed to ensure a clean-up of the factory site.
We stand with the survivors of Bhopal in their campaign for justice.
Together, we ask the Government of the United States to apply political pressure to ensure that Dow and UCC comply with Indian court orders, and the companies pay adequate compensation to the survivors and cover the costs of the clean-up of the Bhopal site.
We ask the Government of India to ensure that survivors of the gas leak get the compensation they deserve and the medical treatment they need. We also ask it to urgently clean up the Bhopal site, ultimately making the companies responsible for the pollution foot the bill.
In September, Prime Minister Modi and President Obama expressed the need to renew the US-India relationship, based on a shared desire for justice and equality.
There is no better place to start than Bhopal. Thirty years is too long to wait for justice and remedy. The wait must end. Now.
Pics: Raghu Rai