Urged to Issue a Joint Statement with Prime Minister Modi Addressing the Disaster
WASHINGTON – In an urgent appeal to President Obama, Amnesty International asked him to meet a visiting survivor of the Bhopal industrial gas disaster prior to traveling to India to be the chief guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations on January 26, 2015.
“We would appreciate if you could meet with the survivor to demonstrate your concern for the suffering of Bhopal gas leak victims,” said the organization.
The organization also urged President Obama to discuss the disaster – called one of the worst industrial disasters in history – with Prime Minister Modi and issue a joint statement addressing the steps that will be taken to clean up the site, treat survivor’s ongoing health problems and ensure those responsible for the disaster are held accountable.
“Mr. President, you and Prime Minister Modi expressed your joint vision during a bilateral summit in September last year to generate greater prosperity and security for both of your countries’ citizens,” the letter states. “Amnesty International believes that addressing the Bhopal disaster is a test case of your commitment.”
The survivor, Sanjay Verma was five months old when the Bhopal gas disaster took place just over 30 years ago. On the night of the disaster three of his sisters, two brothers and both parents died. Only three of the family of ten survived the disaster, and his brother later killed himself as a result of schizophrenia. Verma survived because one of his sisters wrapped him in a blanket and ran away with him. He and his surviving sister grew up in an orphanage in Bhopal, along with thousands of other children. He is suffering from blood clots in his lungs and is on daily medication.
On the night of December 2, 1984, approximately 54,000 pounds of the highly toxic methyl-isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL)’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, killing an estimated 20,000 people. More than 570,000 people were exposed to the gas and developed severe, long-term health problems, including children born to parents exposed to the gas.
Thousands of survivors, their children and grandchildren continue to face crippling disabilities and illness. Toxic pollution from the accident severely contaminated the soil and groundwater around the site, poisoning new generations who suffer from high rates of cancer, birth defects and developmental problems.
Warren Anderson, the chief executive of Union Carbide at the time of the disaster, fled India while on bail and eluded multiple requests by the Indian government to extradite him until his death on September 29, 2014.
Most recently, The Dow Chemical Company, which now owns Union Carbide Corporation, has been issued summons to appear in court in India to explain why it is allowing its wholly owned subsidiary to evade charges for the disaster. Dow ignored these summons in three separate instances in July 2013, February 2014 and November 2014.