Bhopal gas victims upset with judgement,to seek review


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Bhopal : The Supreme Court's dismissal Friday of a petition seeking enhanced compensation for the survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy has disappointed many of those still suffering from the toxic after effects of the poisonous gas leak that killed thousands more than 22 years ago.

"It would have been better if we too had died that day," said a survivor of the Dec 2-3, 1984, gas leak at the Union Carbide plant.

A society representing many of the survivors decided to file a review petition in 30 days.

"It is an injustice meted out to the survivors of the world's worst man-made tragedy," said Abdul Jabbar, convenor, Bhopal Gas Mahila Peedit Mahila Udhyog Sanghthan (BGPMUS) fighting for the rights of victims.

Many victims said that it was a grave injustice meted out to them.

"I lost my two children and got merely Rs.120,000 as their death claims. Besides a meagre Rs.20,000 was given to me for my treatment (due to the gas leak) but more than that amount has been spent on my treatment in all these years," said Shobha Soni (60).

Champalal Gupta's story is even more tragic. Despite being an operator in Union Carbide's pesticide plant from where the gas leaked he has till date received only Rs.25,000 for the drastic toll the gas leak had taken on his health. His dues from the Union Carbide too are yet to be cleared and he is contesting a case against the employers in the Jabalpur High Court for years.

The tragedy occurred when the now-defunct Union Carbide Corporation's pesticide plant in Bhopal spewed out tonnes of Methyliso- cyanate (MIC) gas on the night of Dec 2, 1984, killing thousands instantly and maiming several thousand others for life.

The BGPMUS claimed that since four times more people than originally believed had died in the gas tragedy, more compensation in the same ratio should be given to the victims. "But the court has not given the reasons behind rejecting our plea," said Jabbar.

The compensation of $478 million paid by the Union Carbide Corporation was for 102,000 injured while the number of people dead was put at 3,000. However the Gas Claim Courts had disbursed compensation to 572,000 injured and for 15,272 deaths.

"This in itself means that the number of injured and those who have died is almost four times than that initially believed," Jabbar said, adding that the central government should have paid the amount as per earlier orders of the division bench of the Supreme Court.

The apex court bench, he said, had in its Oct 3, 1991, judgment made it clear that any shortfall in the compensation money would be made up by the India government.

However, Friday a bench of Justices C.K. Thakker and Altamas Kabir, while dismissing the petition for enhanced compensation, ruled that an individual victim could approach the claims tribunal in case he or she had been denied proper compensation.

The petitions had sought a nearly fivefold increase in the $470 million compensation, stating that it was inadequate and several victims had not received the amount.

Meanwhile, other organisations like the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (BGPMSKS), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha (BGPMPSM), Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) and Bhopal Ki Aawaaz (BKA) refused to comment saying that they were yet to go through the verdict.