Madhya Pradesh concealing facts, say Bhopal gas victims


New Delhi: Bhopal gas tragedy victims Thursday accused the Madhya Pradesh government of concealing facts, and said it continued to deny publicly that 16,000 people had died in the aftermath of the tragedy and 5,000 women were widowed.

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Representatives of four organisations of Bhopal gas disaster survivors presented information obtained through the Right to Information Act here.

They pointed out that in its Rs.982-crore action plan submitted to the central government, the Madhya Pradesh government had accepted that 16,000 people had died and 5,000 women were widowed in the gas disaster and due to the toxic waste that polluted the environment in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory.

“Despite these figures, this is not an action plan for the welfare of the Bhopal survivors. In fact, this action plan illustrates all that is wrong with the state government’s role in providing rehabilitation to the victims,” Satinath Sarangi, member of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA), told reporters.

According to Sarangi, while the state government mentions these figures in the action plan, the state’s minister for gas relief denies these facts.

The survivors also criticised the proposals for spending the available funds.

“While the Supreme Court monitoring committee recommended increasing the number of doctors and specialists, computerisation of hospitals, development of effective treatment protocols and improvement of quality of drugs, the action plan of the state government does not address any of these issues of medical care,” said Rashida Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh (BGPMSKS).

“Instead, 95 percent of the budget for medical rehabilitation is proposed to be spent on purchasing equipment and construction so that ministers and bureaucrats can make money as commission,” Bee added.

According to Syed M. Irfan of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha (BGPMPSM), the proposed action plan for economic rehabilitation consists only of providing loans and makes no mention of the utilisation of the work sheds that were built with Rs.80 million to provide gainful employment to survivors.

The state government’s plan of action has already drawn flak from the central ministry of chemicals and fertilizers and the Planning Commission.

Members of these Bhopal organisations who are currently on an indefinite protest near the 18th century Jantar Mantar observatory in the national capital urged the central government to set up the proposed Empowered Commission on Bhopal that could look into the rehabilitation issue properly.