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Bhopal gas tragedy survivors meet PM with demands


New Delhi : About 1,500 survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday seeking action on his promise to enhance the compensation granted to them.

“The central government had last year submitted a list before the Supreme Court in which the number of victims earlier assumed increased over four times. But the amount of compensation remained the same,” said N.D. Jayaprakash from Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti (Bhopal Gas Victims Association) at a march Saturday at Jantar Mantar here.

The Supreme Court in 1989 had ordered a compensation of Rs.7.12 billion ($178 million) on the assumption that the total number of victims was only around 105,000, including 3,000 dead. However, the union government informed the apex court Feb 28, 2007 that there were 573,537 victims, including 5,294 “proven” death cases and 10,007 “other” death cases.

These victims were compensated from the original allocation of funds. In Bhopal, a massive leak of cyanide gas from a Union Carbide factory killed thousands of people on the night between Dec 2 and 3, 1984.

More than 23 years later, local residents are still suffering from serious respiratory problems and babies born years after the holocaust are showing health problems.

In February 2006, the victims held a march from Bhopal to Delhi and received compensation promises and guarantees of concrete intervention to renew the local environment from Prime Minister Singh.

“Among our other demands are establishment of an empowered commission on Bhopal for long-term medical care and rehabilitation of the Bhopal victims and their children,” said Abdul Jabbar Khan of Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghathan (Bhopal Gas Victim Women’s Association).

The organisations have suggested the names of P.M. Bhargava, founder of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, Sneh Bhargav, former director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi and eight other scientists, social workers and former government officials as representatives of the Bhopal survivors in the commission.

Jayaprakash said that the commission should monitor the health problems of Bhopal gas leak victims on a regular basis, a process stopped in 1994.

“A medical protocol should be devised for their treatment, so that they are not treated as new patients every time they go to a hospital. About 6,000 gas leak victims have to visit one hospital or the other an average day.”