Thousands of women and children who survived the Bhopal gas leak staged a sit-in in front of the Supreme Court Tuesday and shouted "Justice has died" to protest the $470 million settlement between Union Carbide Corp. and the government.
The demonstration, sponsored by the Bhopal Women Gas Victims Front, started as Parliament began a three-month session in which opposition parties plan to question Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's administration about the accord.Opposition leaders, victims' rights groups, newspaper editorials and survivors of the Dec. 3, 1984, leak of lethal gas from Union Carbide's now-defunct pesticide plant in Bhopal have condemned the settlement as insufficient.
Some opposition politicians have alleged the accord was reached through "underhanded dealings" involving the payment of large bribes to unnamed politicians. Union Carbide has denied the charges and members of the ruling Congress (I) Party have accused their opponents of "politicizing the tragedy."
The government had been seeking $3 billion in damages from the U.S.-based multinational corporation but last Wednesday agreed to the Supreme Court-mediated settlement, under which Union Carbide will pay $470 million in return for a dismissal of all civil and criminal liability proceedings against it.
Some 2,500 women and children who survived history's worst industrial disaster arrived in New Delhi aboard two trains from Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state, 375 miles south of New Delhi, and marched through the city to the Supreme Court building, where they squatted before the gates.
Many of the women wore full-length black chadors - the traditional Islamic body covering - and shouted "Death to Union Carbide," "Justice has died" and "Down with the settlement."
Across the road, more than 100 American companies were exhibiting their wares in the largest show of U.S. technology ever organized for the annual Indian Engineering Trade Fair.