|Survivors burn effigy of Warren Anderson|
The recent settlement in the Mexico Gulf oil spill has emboldened the survivors of the Bhopal gas leak to demand a hike in their compensation.
They now want US$8.1 billion instead of the proposed US$1.2 billion as compensation for the gas leak from a Union Carbide Corporation plant in Bhopal 27 years ago.
“The US is concerned about its citizens and got a huge compensation for the accidental death of 11 persons, but when it comes to compensating the death and other loss of the Bhopal victims it is shying away from its responsibility,” Rachna Dhingra, an activist fighting for the gas victims, told ucanews.com.
Four days ago, the British Petroleum agreed to pay a record US$4.36 billion in fines for the April 20, 2010 explosion on the British Petroleum-leased Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers.
Dhingra said the Bhopal survivors have decided to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 3, the 28th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, to press their demand.
She regretted that little has been done for the Bhopal victims.
The Dow Chemicals, another US-based firm that bought Union Carbide in 1999, maintains that it is not liable to compensate the victims as it was not the owner of the Bhopal plant at the time of the tragedy.
The survivors alleged that India’s federal and Madhya Pradesh state governments had manipulated the figures of death and loss in a bid to protect the US firm’s interest.
They said 94 percent of the people exposed to Union Carbide’s toxic gases have been paid only 25,000 rupees (US$470) each as compensation as the government has wrongly categorized their injuries as temporary in nature.
They also alleged that a curative petition the Indian government filed in the US supposedly to remedy the settlement of 1989 had downplayed the deaths and health damages.
The government, they said should ask for US$8.1 billion in the curative petition instead of US$1.2 billion.
“We want the PM to look into these issues with the required seriousness,” said Nawab Khan, another activist.
If the government continues to ignore their plea, the victims would shift their protest venue to New Delhi from Bhopal, Khan said.
In all, about 500,000 people were exposed to potential lethal waste in Bhopal. An estimated 25,000 people are thought to have died over the past 25 years due to air, soil and water pollution.
India: When nature is exploited, so too are former untouchables.