Indian-Origin UK MP Secures Debate on Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Who's Navendu Mishra?

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people are said to have died in the Bhopal disaster, which had occurred in December 1984.

Indian Diaspora
3 min read
Indian-Origin UK MP Secures Debate on Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Who's Navendu Mishra?

Navendu Mishra, an Indian-origin MP from Britain's Opposition Labour Party, secured a debate in Parliament to demand justice for the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, the 38th anniversary of which will be observed next month.

The Stockport MP asked the British government to demand action from Dow Chemicals, which is the parent company of Union Carbide – the American corporation involved in the gas leak.

What Did Mishra Say? 

During a debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesday, 15 November, Mishra called on the UK government's contribution for efforts towards justice for the victims and against Dow Chemicals in Indian courts.

"The Dow Chemical Company, which is the parent company of Union Carbide, has for too long evaded its responsibility to the victims and survivors," Mishra said during the debate.

"Today we are still campaigning for justice for the victims and survivors. Groups such as 'Action for Bhopal', the 'International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal', the trade union 'Unison', the 'British TUC', and Indian civil society and trade unions, have all called for compensation, environmental remediation, medical care and research, and support for the victims."
Navendu Mishra

The Bhopal disaster had occurred on 2 and 3 December in 1984, during which more than 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate, after a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide in Madhya Pradesh started leaking.

The tragedy is widely known as the worst industrial disaster to have ever taken place.

According to estimates, anywhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people are said to have died due to the tragedy, and hundreds of thousands have been suffering from the its after-effects, including respiratory problems, blindness, and other diseases related to toxic gas exposure.

Who Is Navendu Mishra? 

Navendu Prabhat Mishra, 33, has been an MP from Stockport since 2019.

While both his parents are from Uttar Pradesh – his mother from Gorakhpur and his father from Kanpur – Mishra grew up in UK's Bristol and attended public school at Clifton College.

Before joining politics, Mishra worked as a shop-floor trade unionist in Stockport, and later became an organiser for the Unison trade union, where he helped healthcare workers fight against precarious employment conditions.

He became involved in politics in 2015, when he supported the then Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn in the party's leadership election.

He fought his first general election from Hazel Grove in the snap polls of 2017, which he ended up losing. However, Mishra attained Labour's highest vote share ever in the seat, winning more than 20 percent of the vote in a traditionally Conservative-leaning constituency.

A year later, Mishra was elevated to Labour's National Executive Committee, and went on to win the general election from Stockport in 2019 – making him one of the youngest MPs in the House of Commons.

Apart from being a parliamentarian, Mishra is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for India (Trade and Investment), a member of several trade unions, and a part of several All Party Parliamentary Groups, including Rail, Fairtrade, Woods & Trees, Cricket and Beer.


What Was the UK Govt's Response On the Bhopal Gas Tragedy? 

In its reply to Mishra, the UK government, represented by Minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said:

"For many of us, the older ones in the room, the disaster at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal is seared into our memories as one of the worst industrial accidents in history."

"On 3 December 1984, this gas leak from a pesticide plant killed 3,800 people immediately. It has left up to half a million more with significant illnesses and has caused premature deaths. The responsibility to respond to the tragic disaster has always lain with Union Carbide, an American company, and with the government of India."
Anne-Marie Trevelyan

She also said that Britain did not provide any funding or other kinds of support to India with regard to the disaster.

However, the erstwhile Department for International Development (DfID) had supported wider development in Madhya Pradesh, which had benefited people – including those affected by the disaster living in Bhopal, she claimed.

"I will commit to raise with my Indian counterparts the concerns of all parliamentarians present about the need for continuing support and compensation for victims," the minister added.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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Topics:  UK   Bhopal Gas Tragedy   Indian Diaspora 

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