Bhopal, Dec 4 (IANS) Hundreds of survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy Monday observed the 23rd anniversary of the lethal leakage that killed thousands of people and declared that they would boycott future elections till their long standing demands were not fulfilled.
The disaster that occurred on the intervening night of Dec 2-3, 1984, when more than 40 tonnes of Methyl-Iso-Cyanate and other poisonous gases spewed out of Union Carbide's pesticide plant, saw over 3,000 people instantly killed. Several thousand others were maimed for life. More than 15,000 people have died since then.
Hundreds of survivors of the disaster and their supporters marched to the abandoned Union Carbide factory, shouting slogans against Union Carbide, its present owner Dow Chemicals, and the central and state governments whom they hold responsible for their plight. They alleged they were in collusion with Union Carbide and current owner Dow Chemical Company, USA.
The protesters were joined by a large number of residents from the localities that are affected due to poisoning of the ground water from the chemical waste dumped in and around the factory.
Three organisations - Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh (BGPMSKS), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha (BGPMPSM) and Bhopal Group for Information & Action (BGIA) - led the rally and demanded that Dow clean up the environmental contamination in Bhopal and pay compensation to those affected by the poisonous gases.
The marchers burnt effigies of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical, shown as 10-armed monsters with the faces of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra and US President George Bush and others representing the "hands" of the American corporations.
Leaders of the organisations also lambasted the state government's report allegedly claiming that there was no hazardous effect on the people due to ground water contamination, and said it was "clear that the state government is doing Dow's work".
Describing the report a "bundle of lies", they said they had communicated to the state government on Oct 1 that the study suffered from faulty design and shoddy data collection.
They also said the draft report had not been discussed by the core group of experts before releasing it to the media.
The leaders claimed that documents obtained by them from the Prime Minister's Office showed that the cabinet secretariat of the central government was "actively seeking ways" to absolve Dow Chemical of its liabilities towards over 25,000 affected Bhopal residents.
They said the three major political parties - Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and Communist Party of India-Marxist - were similar in their "slavish attitude" towards American multinational Dow Chemicals.
They alleged that Dow was behind the violence in West Bengal's Nandigram and charged Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh with joining the "band of traitors" by allowing it to set up an R&D centre in Pune.
Several organisations also held a public meeting at the Yadgare Shahjahani Park and took a pledge "not to allow a repeat of Bhopal", while criticising multinational companies for "playing with the lives of innocent people in third world countries".