The shock wave of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy has left in its wake a number of questions. It has not merely been a tragedy for the people of Bhopal but a serious forewarning to all of us. The brazenness of the Union Carbide and their apologists and the conspiratorial behavior of the Indian State only spell out graver implications for the future. Concerned groups and individuals have voiced their anger and concern in various forums and called for concerted action. We in Bhopal have felt this need all the more so. Hence the National Convention the discussion during the Convention would be organized along the following themes :

1. Right to Safe Environment what it means

Article f48 A of the Constitution declares that "The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment". But with the Indian State having criminally abrogated its responsibility, the people themselves will have to determine the dangers to their environment, and take steps to ensure its safety. There are several other time-bombs like the Union Carbide factory of Bhopal. There is the slow but continuous poisoning of our environment by effluents so carelessly. Spewed out by the factories workers in various mines and factories are continuously inhaling dust and fumes causing damage to their health. The ecological damage by deforestation, major dams,' indiscriminate mining, etc., are assuming disastrous proportions. The common understanding of environment is often confined to our physical environment. It needs to be emphasized that environment includes human beings and the state of the environment can be fully understood only as a complex interaction between the physical environment and the social structures and processes. We feel the need to clearly spell out the various forms of threats to a safe environment in general as well as in specific scientific terms. This would help in identifying issues in the fight for a safe environment.

Science,Technology and Scientists Vs.People's Right to Know and Exercise Choice

The most amazing fact that has emerged is that the people of Bhopal were totally unaware of the going on inside the Union Carbide factory and the R&D Centre. After the disaster, the shroud of mystery has been further tightened. The official scientists, technologists and medical specialists, seemingly under official orders, have shown tremendous reluctance to share information and take the general public into confidence. A new Brahmin culture of Science and Technology has been built up as a counter to the call of People's Science. The fight to establish People's Right to know and Exercise Choice will be a long drawn political fight and the State cannot be expected to yield easily. The People's Science Movements and Civil Liberties Groups will have to articulate these rights more specifically and clearly for other movements to take up. We hope that various groups participating in the discussions will take up this challenge.

Present Day Development Policy - Critique and alternatives

Vested interests of Indian as well as foreign capital have been carefully building up an ideology that equates development with industrialization and technological modernization. They choose to see disasters like Bhopal merely as an unavoidable consequence of inevitable modernization. But obviously the issue is not so straightforward. The nature of technology transfer, the role of foreign capital and nature of development they generate are debatable issues. We are aware that it would be difficult to come to a consensus on such ideological issues. Yet we feel that this debate is too basic to be avoided and it would be useful if various ideological stand-points are clearly spelled out, particularly in the context of Bhopal gas disaster and the urgency that right to safe environment has acquired.

The Legal Position on Right to Safe Environment and Right to Know

While the right to safe environment is enshrined in our Constitution, we are not sure about Right to Know. We hope our experts will clarify the legal position. Various aspects of these issues need to be raised and clarified in higher courts. The Right to Know has to be given a legal status. The existing laws on pollution control, industrial licensing and monitoring, compensation, etc., also need to be examined to identify loop-holes and suggest remedial actions. This is essential as a first step towards realizing people’s right.

Implications for People’s Movements

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy has also left with us a very disturbing question-is our role confined only to rush in for relief work after such disasters have resulted because of some body-else greed, neglect and the State's criminal negligence? Can't we be forewarned and see to it that such situations do not build up? If so, Know? The challenge is quite obviously there before various People's Movements. Can we spell out the implications for movements of democratic rights, people's science, trade unions, environmental issues, women’s issues and others?
We hope the discussions on these issues would help in evolving some joint long-term action plans.

Author: Jahrili Gas Kand Sangharsh Morcha,

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