Bhopal gas survivors welcome admission of curative petition by SC

By Pervez Bari,,

Bhopal: Representatives of five organizations of the survivors of the December 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the world’s worst industrial catastrophe, on Monday welcomed the admission of the curative petition for enhancement of compensation by the Supreme Court of India.

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However, holding the Government of India primarily responsible for the collusive settlement of 1989, they stated that the government’s curative petition does not contain correct figures of death and extent of injuries caused by the disaster. They expressed hope that the Court will take necessary steps to arrive at a compensation sum based on correct figures of the impact of the disaster.

Ms Rashida Bi, a survivor and leader of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, said that the figure of deaths presented by the Indian government is far lower than that reported by government research agencies. She said that statistical projections based on the mortality rates reported by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Centre for Rehabilitation Studies show that the figures of exposure related death were five times more than that mentioned in the curative petition filed in the Supreme Court. She pointed out that registration of exposure related deaths was arbitrarily stopped in 1997 while the Centre for Rehabilitation Studies reported 436 deaths attributable to toxic exposure in 2000.

Another leader Balkrishna Namdeo, of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, pointed out that essential tests such as Pulmonary function test, exercise tolerance test and urinary thiocyanate tests were carried out on less than 10 per cent of the claimants as a result of which several hundred thousand victims were wrongly adjudged as having suffered only temporary injury. He said that while ICMR’s study reported 30 per cent of the victims to be suffering from mental illnesses, no claimant was assessed for mental injuries.

Ms Safreen Khan, of Children against Dow Carbide said that in the curative petition, the government had failed to mention that children born after the disaster were also entitled to compensation. She pointed out that according to studies published in international peer reviewed journals such as the Journal of American Medical Association and American Journal of Industrial Medicine, children born to gas exposed parents have suffered growth and development disorders.

According to Ms Rachna Dhingra, of Bhopal Group for Information and Action, the Indian government had wrongly claimed compensation for contamination of soil and ground water in the curative petition that was focused on the December 1984 gas disaster. She pointed out that the toxic contamination was unrelated to the gas disaster and was a result of routine and reckless dumping of hazardous waste by the Union Carbide. She said that if the Indian government is sincere about making the company pay for the environmental and health damage caused by toxic contamination, it should join the ongoing litigation in the US federal court.

It may be mentioned here that 40 tonnes of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas spewed from the pesticide plant of the Union Carbide factory in the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984. The gas leak killed 3,000 people instantly and more that 25,000 over the years. It also affected 100,000 people that night and estimates are that more than 500,000 continue to suffer till date. ([email protected])