People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 51

December 20, 2009



Victims Condemn Moves To Absolve Killer Carbide


Sadhna Karnik Pradhan


THREE organisations, namely the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the All India Peoples Science Network and the Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti, jointly conducted a one-month long campaign in November, which concluded with a massive public meeting in front of the Union Carbide factory on December 3, 2009. 

The day marked the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy --- the worst industrial disaster in the world.

The campaign was a part of the struggle by the gas-affected people against US imperialism.

Earlier, there took place a meeting of several trade unions, employees� organisations, several organisations of writers, women, youth, students, and people�s science organisations. This meeting formed an organising committee to pave the way for a joint campaign. During the one month period that followed, various organisations represented in the organising committee conducted numerous activities highlighting the present tragic conditions of the gas affected people and exposing the inhuman attitude of American imperialism to them.  The campaign included a meeting of the gas affected railway people on November 8, a demonstration of the worst affected gas victims before the Carbide gate on November 20, a human chain by gas affected youth and students on November 22, and a doctors� seminar on November 29. The period also saw an intensive survey about the present conditions of the gas-affected people from November 20 to 27, and a cultural jatha campaign from November 27 to 30. Besides, a campaign was conducted in nearly 50 colonies of the gas-affected people, enlisting them for the coming struggles. A seminar held on December 1 and 2 helped channelise the experiences gained during the campaign. The public meeting on December 3, referred to above, was the culmination of this very one-month campaign.



Addressing the public meeting on December 3, CITU president Dr M K Pandhe said that even after 25 years of the worst ever industrial tragedy, people are continuing to die due to the poisonous gas effect but neither correct and efficient treatment is being given them nor is there any planning for rehabilitation of the affected. Pandhe further said that victims of many accidents are given lakhs of rupees as compensation, but to the victims and disabled due to the poisonous gas released by the multinational Union Carbide only Rs 25,000 were given as compensation. Condemning the capitulationist policies of the central and state governments before American imperialism, he told the gathering that not only were the gas affected not given justice but there also exists the danger of the entire nation becoming a camp-follower of the US of America. On the one hand, American government is not willing to hand over the culprit Anderson, the man responsible for this human slaughter, while the same government arrested Saddam Hussein and is killing lakhs of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Imperialism is indulging in inhuman exploitation of the developing countries and meting out brutality to the hapless people, and it is the main source of injustice to the people of third world countries.  Dr Pandhe said that the gas affected people of Bhopal have been the targets of this very kind of injustice. Expressing solidarity with the struggle of the gas affected, Pandhe declared that the CITU would continue this struggle with its full strength. He said we must remember the lesson derived from the struggle of the last 25 years that without intensifying the struggle against imperialism the struggle of the gas affected people would never fructify. Commenting on the Civil Nuclear Liability Act, Dr Pandhe said after the Indo-American nuclear agreement, the central government has given complete freedom to the American MNCs for perpetrating in the country still bigger and more serious disasters than the Bhopal tragedy. Therefore, without fighting against the policies of the central government and its pro-US attitude, our goal of �No To Another Bhopal� would remain an illusion.

Exposing the claims of the earlier governments and the present BJP government of the state, the CITU�s MP state vice president and CPI(M) state secretary Badal Saroj said that, even according to the government�s own figures, the average amount spent on compensation, rehabilitation and medical treatment for the gas affected so far comes to a paltry Rs 4 and 21 paise only. This explains the attitude of the central and state governments towards the gas affected people. Commenting upon the NGOs run with foreign money, he further said that the central government and US imperialism are responsible for the inhuman tragedy but these NGOs are responsible for confusing the people�s struggle. It is therefore necessary, he said, that while we advance the united struggle by the gas affected people�s organisations, mass organisations and Left political forces who show the correct path for the struggle, we must also expose the motives of the NGOs run with the foreign money.

Sadhna Karnik Pradhan, convenor of Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Samiti, said that even today the seriously gas affected areas are virtual deathbeds. They are not given any priority, nor is there any special planning for them. She termed the medical classification of the gas affected people as the biggest medical fraud of the century. She explained that the said classification says that 98 per cent have not affected or, even if affected, they have been cured. If that is so, she asked, how are the gas affected people still dying because of gas related illness? As a result of the poisonous gas effect, unorganised workers have lost the capacity to work but they are not provided alternative jobs, nor any social benefit scheme has been implemented for them. Scientific research and study has established that due to the presence of a huge quantity of poisonous garbage, water sources in the area have become contaminated; yet the central minister Jairam Ramesh and state minister Babulal Gaur claim that no such contamination has taken place. Leaders of the gas affected people�s organisations have stated that such a statement from the ministers is a shameless effort to absolve the Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals (which has taken over the culprit company) of their responsibility. She said the gas affected people would not tolerate this shameless act. She also detailed the participation of the people in the struggle during the last 25 years, she asked the assembled people to take a pledge to continue their fight. Thousands then raised their hands to demonstrate their total support.

Asha Mishra, general secretary of the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, spoke on behalf of the All India People�s Science Network. She said that her organisation was raising the issues related to the gas tragedy from day one. She reminded that the All India People�s Science Network was founded as a result of the Bhopal gas tragedy and since then it has been continuously making the people aware of the various effects and campaigning for taking science to the people. She said the inhuman tragic condition of the affected people even after 25 years demanded that we continue and carry on the struggle. Pledging to continue the struggle, Asha Mishra declared that activists of the people�s science movement stood with the gas affected people and will continue to do so in the future.

The meeting was presided over by a presidium consisting of Prof Afaq Ahmed, S P Sharma, (treasurer, CITU) and Pushan Bhattacharya (employees� organisation). General secretary of MP state CITU, Pramod Pradhan, conducted the proceedings.

Three distinct streams emanated from the various programmes and functions organised on the 25th anniversary. First, there are the so-called NGOs and their supportive organisations run with the foreign fund. Then, there is the movement led by Megha Patkar and her organisation which is spearheading an anti-Left campaign after Nandigram and Singur. The third one is our stream consisting of several mass organisations, People�s Science Network, trade unions, organisations of writers and artists, that of the gas affected peoples. Those in this stream believe that the struggle of the gas affected people is a part of the wider struggle against imperialism.



On conclusion of the meeting, thousands of the gas affected people made an attempt to enter the Carbide factory in the form of a procession and reached its gate. They were shouting slogans like �let us go inside and let us see the poison.� The Rapid Action Force and a large number of police people were then guarding the gate. When the agitators tried to enter the factory, they were forcefully stopped by the police.

The agitators then sat on a dharna in front of the gate where Sadhna Karnik Pradhan demanded that when union minister Jairam Ramesh could enter the factory and declare that there was no poisonous garbage there, why the gas victims could not go inside and verify the statement. The agitators were stopped by the administration on the plea of a court order obtained earlier. Considering the increasing anger of the agitators, senior administrative officers expressed their helplessness and said that the government had issued clear instructions banning the entry of the gas affected people into the factory. In the end, the agitators took the pledge to reach the place in still larger numbers and continue the struggle until the central and state governments stopped uttering the lie that there was no poison left in the Carbide premises.