With 80 million inhabitants, West Bengal is the fourth most populous state in India. It has been ruled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front (LF) coalition for three decades. This government, however, has regularly used police repression against workers and peasants to defend big-business interests.
On March 23, hundreds of thousands of people from all over India converged in Delhi to express their anger at the killing of peasant protesters on March 14 by police and thugs aligned with the West Bengal Left Front (LF) government. Those killed were resisting eviction from their land in Nandigram. Similar killings also happened on January 7. The mass rally was preceded by two days of cultural protests.
On march 19, the Madhya Pradesh government agreed to meet some of the demands of the survivors of the 1984 chemical explosion and deadly gas leaks at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, which killed thousands of people and left tens of thousands with severe health problems. After hunger strikes by survivors and an international solidarity campaign, the government agreed to provide clean water, medical care and rehabilitation to victims, as well as to release information about the water and soil contamination around the abandoned factory site and to construct a wall to contain it. Pragya, a Bhopal activist, said following the decision, Thanks to all who sent their prayers and faxes and other good vibes. Bhopal remains not only ground zero of the chemical industrys global wounding, but also ground zero for the fight for peoples basic human rights to live in a poison-free environment, to drink water that is free of toxic chemicals, and receive basic medical care for their injuries. If the government fails to implement its promises, protests will take place in India and around the world during April and May. For more information visit <http://bhopal.net>.
On March 22, World Water Day, more than 40 people were arrested in New Delhi while protesting against water theft by Coca-Cola and Pepsico. The India Resource Centre reports that more than 300 people marched to the planning commissions offices to demand action from the government over the soft-drink companies creation of severe water shortages and contamination of soil and groundwater. An organiser of the march and one of those detained, Nandlal Master from Lok Samiti and the National Alliance of Peoples Movements, said the protest was aimed at one of the worlds worst abusers of water, the Coca-Cola company, which has destroyed the lives of thousands of people in India as a result of its thirst for water. For more information, visit <http://www.indiaresource.org>.
In an effort to attract investment, the Left Front (LF) government in the state of West Bengal has tried to drive thousands of petty landowners, poor cultivators and wage labourers out of their homes and off their fields, despite this depriving many of them of any means of livelihood. When they resisted, it sent in gun-toting police, killing more than 20 people on January 7 and March 14.
In 1989, 39 pharmaceutical giants sued the government of AIDS-stricken South Africa, seeking to stop it from implementing a law to improve the poors access to life-saving AIDS drugs. That aggression sparked a public outcry within South Africa and elsewhere, leading to an international campaign that only ended in 2001 when the 39 companies dropped their case.
Tens of thousands of people continue to suffer the effects of the world’s worst industrial disaster — the chemical explosion and leakage of deadly gasses in 1984 at the Union Carbide (now Dow Chemical) pesticide manufacturing plant in Bhopal, which killed thousands of people. Survivors have launched a hunger strike to demand urgent assistance from the Madhya Pradesh government, including decent health care, uncontaminated drinking water, jobs, and pensions for those who are too ill to work. Wells in Bhopal are poisoned by toxic chemicals leaking from the abandoned factory — which Dow refuses to clean up — including agents known to cause cancer and birth defects. Survivors are also demanding reparations from the company. While the victims and their families continue to suffer, Dow corporate executives have not been brought to justice and continue to live in luxury in the US. Send a message of solidarity to the survivors at