New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi should raise the issue of Bhopal gas disaster with the US President Barack Obama during the ongoing three-day visit, said NGOs working for the rights of survivors of the 1984 tragedy.
"On the occasion of Obama's visit to India, the survivors demand that leaders of both countries stop protecting corporate interests over the lives and health of ordinary people and seek reflection and course correction for ending the issues relating to the Bhopal disaster," the five NGOs said in a joint statement.
Deadly methyl isocyanate gas leaked from the Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) plant on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, killing over 3,000 people and injuring thousands of others in one of the world's worst industrial disaster.
UCIL's parent multinational company Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) was subsequently bought over by Dow Chemicals.
Stating that the US government ensured British Petroleum pay USD 20 billion for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha said, "We would like to ask Obama how his conscience allows him to support two US corporations that paid a tiny fraction of that amount for two thousand times more fatalities."
He said 50,000 people living in the vicinity of now abandoned pesticide plant in Bhopal have had their ground water contaminated with toxic chemicals and heavy metals that have leached from recklessly buried hazardous waste.
"The contamination continues to spread and find new victims every day and US corporations continue to deny its liability," Khan said.
That apart, the US denial to extradite UCC chairman Warren Anderson -- who recently died -- despite attempts from the Indian government shows that the "US corporations are not bound by law or human rights in the countries in which they operate,", Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh President Rashida Bee said.
Also, Dow Chemicals has been denying any liability or even connection to the Bhopal gas disaster and the company has been ignoring summons issued by the Bhopal district court in the ongoing legal case, said Balkrishna Namdeo of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogee Sangharsh Morcha.
"Prime Minister Modi has shown great enthusiasm in welcoming US corporations to invest in India and we hope that Indian government will be as enthusiastic in making US corporations obey Indian laws," said Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action.