The victims of Bhopal gas tragedy held a protest rally at Iqbal Maidan here against US President Donald Trump, who arrived in Ahmedabad on his maiden two-day India visit Monday. The protesters, who came together under the banners of various organisations, lashed an effigy of the US President with brooms, raising anti-America slogans.
The protesters said the government is protecting Union Carbide and its owner company Dow Chemicals which is facing a case in the Supreme Court for higher compensation. The gas tragedy which took place in December 1984 left more than 15,000 people dead. Incidentally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been to the US more than once and had even negotiated with Dow Chemicals representatives for more investment in India. The organisation has been avoiding summons from the Indian court.
The victims of the gas tragedy have been fighting for their rights for 35 years. They gathered at Iqbal Maidan on behalf of Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA). BGIA official Rachna Dhingra said the gas victims have not got a fair deal from the US firm. The US government could have found a way of reconciliation for the gas victims of Bhopal in these past years, Dhingra said.
The protesters demanded that Trump should intervene to help social and economic rehabilitation of the victims. In August 2011, the Centre had filed a fresh curative petition in the Supreme Court for enhanced compensation to the victims of the gas tragedy. The Centre had said that UCC, now owned by Dow, should be directed to pay an additional compensation of Rs 7,413 crore.
In July 2013, the Bhopal district court asked Dow to explain why UCC repeatedly ignored court summons. The gas victims then moved the Supreme Court. This month a curative petition has been listed before a SC bench for regular hearing. Now the apex court has an opportunity to undo the injustice committed on Indian citizens by not only the American firm, but also the Indian government.
The two were alleged to have colluded to reduce the number and extent of injuries caused by gas tragedy. Now the petition is before a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court.
The victims' representatives expect the court to set the record straight on the number of deaths -- four times more than what government records have claimed -- and remove the injustice of categorising victims' injuries as 'minor or temporary' to award compensation.
Satinath Sarangi, who led the Bhopal gas victims' battle for higher compensation, said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have talked with US authorities to get Dow Chemicals to appear before the Bhopal court dealing with the compensation case.