Bhopal: Four survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster are on an indefinite fast to demand healthcare and economic rehabilitation for thousands of people affected by toxic fumes that emanated from the now-defunct Union Carbide pesticide plant more than 22 years ago.The hunger strike, which began on Monday, is part of their campaign 'Jeene Ka Haq' (Right to Live) to mark the first anniversary of their protest march from Bhopal to New Delhi in support of their demands. The campaign, which began 12 days ago, is to also demand social support for the survivors and their families, safe drinking water and removal of hazardous waste from the plant site.
The participants include Rashida Bee, who had lost six family members to cancer for having inhaled the noxious fumes. A winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, she suffers from chronic physical and mental problems. The others are Guddi Bee and Jabbar Khan, who live next to the Union Carbide factory and are suffering due to contaminated ground water. The fourth is Shehazadi Bee, who was exposed to the toxic gases in 1984 and later to the contaminated water when she moved close to the factory. Rachna Dhingra and Satinath Sarangi, who have been working along with the survivors for the last several years to get them relief, have also joined them. On the night of December 2, 1984, over 40 tonnes of lethal Methyl Iso-Cyanate (MIC) gas spewed out of the Union Carbide plant, killing more than 3,000 people instantly and maiming thousands others for life. More than 15,000 affected people have since died. The leaders of various gas-survivors' organisations, including Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Group for Information and Action and Bhopal Ki Aawaaz, want the state government to ensure that the toxic waste is not allowed to contaminate surrounding areas and the survivors are provided safe drinking water, as directed by the Supreme Court. They are also demanding free medical care for the affected people, implementation of a drug policy to ensure proper treatment with quality medicines and greater emphasis on yoga and herbal care to treat the gas survivors. (IANS)