Bhopal battle won, struggle for corporate accountability begins

On 17th April, 2006 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally met the campaigners seeking justice for the victims of Bhopal Gas Disaster of 3rd December 1984 and assured speedy work on three of their six demands.

He has agreed for a clean-up of the contaminated site, clean water and a commission to execute medical and economic rehabilitation schemes.

The six demands were:

1. The setting up of a National Commission on Bhopal to oversee medical and social rehabilitation;

2. Supply of safe water to communities currently drinking poisoned water;

3. Speedy prosecution of the accused, including Union Carbide Corporation and its former chairman; environmental remediation;

4. Curbing Dow and Carbide's business in India; and

5. Memorialising the disaster by including it in school and college curricula and

6. Building a Bhopal Memorial in consultation with survivors.

Bhopalis who were on hunger strike called off their fast but they are upset with the Prime Minister who rejected their demand that Union Carbide's successor, Dow Chemical, be held accountable and its products be banned in India.

Four organisationsl;Bhopal gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karamchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Pursh Sangarsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information and Action and Bhopal ki Aawaaz had presented their charter of six demands to the Prime Minister. Campaigners like Nityanand Jayaraman, Madhumitta Dutta and several others ably assisted this struggle.

A team Ministry of Chemicals will begin spadework on the clean-up and safe water supply. There is no timeframe but it is hoped that there will be a real clean-up.

The battle has been won despite general media apathy towards the victims of Bhopal gas disaster. Now the struggle for corporate accountability begins. It would be revealing to note how media reports the efforts to make corporate criminals accountable.

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