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Oration - Sathyu Sarangi


Satinath Sarangi was born in Orissa, India. More popularly known as Sathyu, his work as a campaigner started early as he became involved in various campaigns including indigenous people’s struggle for self-determination in Bihar and the Society of Social Workers, students involved in organising low caste agricultural workers.

Sathyu combined his activist work with study and completed his Masters in Technology degree (Metallurgical Engineering) from the Institute of Technology, Varanasi in 1980. He was an outstanding student and received many awards from Banaras Hindu University. Sathyu embarked on a PhD in Metallurgical Engineering and combined this with work as a research engineer for the Council of Industrial and Scientific Research in Bhopal. He became disillusioned with the work and in 1984 joined Kishore Bharati, an NGO working among tribal and semi-tribal people in villages near Bhopal. It was while working with village youths that he heard in a radio broadcast on December 3rd, 1984 about the Bhopal Union Carbide factory gas leak. He left for Bhopal that evening, rushing to help the people affected. He still lives in the area today.

Shocked by the large numbers of causalities, with 5000 killed in the first three days and with more than 20,000 people killed to date, Sathyu has worked tirelessly carrying out relief work and raising awareness. Within days of the leak, he co- founded the Zahareeli Gas Kand Sangharsh Morcha. In 1986, he became one of the founders of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA), which was established to provide information, offer support to different survivor organisations, and initiate national and international campaigns. BGIA has documented the quality of medical care available to the survivors and problems in the distribution of compensation. It organises international tours, by both first and second generation survivors, to draw attention to the unjust settlement between Union Carbide and the Government of India. BGIA has called for improvement in medical care, disposal of toxic waste and stoppage of demolition of the factory by the management. It has also provided legal assistance to survivor claimants who have been wrongfully denied compensation or have been paid inadequate sums.

In response to the poor medical care available for the Union Carbide survivors, Sathyu helped establish the Sambhavna (Possibilities) Trust and the Sambhavna Medical Clinic in 1995. From its modest beginnings, the clinic has grown into a modern facility, complete with laboratory facilities and medical staff. The clinic offers Ayurveda, the indigenous system of health care that uses herbal medicines. Medicinal plants are grown in the garden and the clinic also manufactures a number of Ayurvedic remedies. The Sambhavna Trust was awarded the Japanese Tajiri Muneaki prize in 1999, the national ‘Inner Flame Award’ for outstanding humanitarian work in 2001 and the international Margaret Mead Award in 2002.

Sathyu continues his work with the Sambhavna Trust as its Managing Trustee and travels and publishes extensively, reminding the world that, almost 25 years later, Justice for Bhopal is on-going. Sathyu and the Trust are currently collaborating with Queen Margaret University on an ethnographic study of the survivors’ campaign for justice and we are delighted to honour Sathyu in recognition of his immense contribution to social and moral justice.

 


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