2-3 December 2018 marks the 34th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster in India. A pesticide factory owned by US multinational corporation Union Carbide (taken over by Dow Chemical, now DowDuPont) exploded at night, fatally gassing many thousands of people, their cows and other animals, and exposing half a million people to the poison. It has been described as the world’s worst industrial disaster. It happened in 1984, the year that WinVisible started. As we have always supported Bhopali women’s struggle for justice, compensation, clean-up of the factory site and clean water, they have a special place in our hearts.
In particular, we have been in touch with the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh (Bhopal gas survivors women stationery workers’ union, Muslim and Hindu women together). We supported their successful campaign for equal pay for disabled women placed in government employment (making stationery) as part of official “welfare” provision. They were paid less as their productivity was assumed to be less, when in fact they produced the same as other workers.
New generations are being poisoned by the pollution that leaks from the abandoned factory, into the water supply and the environment, every time it rains.
Coming up to the 34th anniversary, the community has been highlighting and protesting against:
- The restructuring of Dow Chemical to escape future liability, after its merger with DuPont in 2017
- The misuse of funds for survivors’ employment and housing by the Madhya Pradesh state minister for Gas Tragedy Relief, Vishwas Sarang
- A Bhopal fun run and food carnival to be held on the anniversary when thousands perished
President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Rashida Bee said “In 2010, 104 Crores [£11.7m approx.] were allocated to provide jobs to 1 lakh [100,000] Bhopal survivors and their children . After failing to provide employment to even one survivor in the last 8 years, the Minister is now spending more than 60 Crores of the money meant for employment generation on public works that are routinely funded by taxpayers money.”
Activists protested when they were reported to the police in a counter-accusation.
Parallels with Grenfell?