There is opposition to the State Government's decision to open the factory in Bhopal to the public for a week from Nov. 20. The factory remains shut since the night of Dec. 2-3 1984, when a deadly mix of Methyl Iso Cyanate and other toxic gases leaked from its pesticides plant, which killed over 3,500 people, maimed thousands and exposed over 5,00,000 people to toxic fumes.

The Madhya Pradesh government will throw open to public the now defunct Union Carbide factory on the 25th anniversary of the gas tragedy killing around 3,500 people, but the move has been slammed as a “publicity stunt“.

The factory which has been shut since the tragedy on the intervening night of Dec 2-3, 1984, will remain open for a week from November 20.

Thousands of persons were maimed for life when tonnes of Methyl Iso Cyanate (MIC) and other lethal gases spewed out of the Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticide plant here exposing over 5,00,000 people to the toxic fumes.

A decision to allow public to visit the plant was taken by the State government recently, official sources said today.

The organisations working for the gas victims flayed the government’s decision calling it a publicity stunt to try to convince people there is nothing dangerous in the factory site. The move also violated court orders, they said.

State Gas Relief and Rehabilitation Minister, Babulal Gaur, said the government can extend the period for public visits to show that there was nothing dangerous at the factory site any more.

But the NGOs are not impressed voicing fears of dangers to humans.

Rachna Dhingra of International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal said, “More than 10 governmental and non-governmental studies have confirmed the presence of highly toxic chemicals in the soil and environment of the factory site.”

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila-Purush Sangarsh Morcha leader, Syed M. Irfan said the Centre and the Madhya Pradesh governments are using the 25th anniversary of the Gas tragedy as an occasion to bury the disaster along with all the pending liabilities.

“As per a 1999-study by Greenpeace, over 20 per cent of the factory site was contaminated and mercury level at one sample location was 60 lakh times more than normal,” Ms. Dhingra said.

Besides, the study also found high levels of lead, nickel, copper, chromium, chlorobenzene and sevin in soil samples taken from the factory site, Ms. Dhingra said.

She said eminent scientist and founder Director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Dr. P. Bhargava had warned that Union Carbide site is completely unsafe and even we cannot put our foot on the ground.

Ms. Dhingra said the Madhya Pradesh High Court in its order on October 29, 2005 had said the factory premises should be appropriately guarded by deputing armed guards so that no outsider enters there.

She said the court had also directed that since toxic materials were stored in the factory premises, it cannot be used for garden, park or laboratory.

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