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Opinion

36th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy: a simple lip service ritual, says a survivor

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The wait for justice for the survivors of one of the world’s largest industrial catastrophes, the Bhopal gas tragedy, continues on the 36th anniversary of the disaster, with subsequent governments renouncing the cause, say organizations fighting for their rights .

Various rights organizations have been demanding, for decades, severe and exemplary punishment for those responsible for the tragedy, adequate compensation for the victims, an adequate rehabilitation plan and adequate medical facilities for the survivors, and the elimination of toxic chemicals that they are found in the plant facilities, among other things. .

According to a state government affidavit filed in court in 2006, the tragedy killed 3,787 people and affected more than 5.58 lakh in the state capital after toxic gas leaked from the former Union Carbide factory, which it was closed after the tragedy on the night in between. December 2-3, 1984. However, organizations fighting for the victims say that the tragedy has left at least 25,000 dead.

A report published in April 2019 by the International Labor Organization (ILO) called the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy one of the world’s ‘most important industrial accidents’ of the 20th century. The report indicated that at least 30 tons of methyl isocyanate gas, released from the Union Carbide pesticide plant, had affected more than 600,000 nearby workers and residents.

Highly toxic methyl isocyanate gas (MIC) can cause death within minutes of inhalation if its concentration exceeds 21 PPM (parts per million). That was the reason for so many deaths and the devastating aftermath in hundreds of thousands of survivors over decades, according to the organizations.

Eight defendants in the tragedy case were given two years in prison and a fine of Rs 1.7 lakh each by a Bhopal court in the first week of June 2010, which, according to the survivors’ organization, it was a mockery of justice in such a great tragedy. The defendants were also granted bail.

The main defendant in the case, Warren Anderson, who was given safe passage by the governments of the then Congress in the state and the Center after his visit to Bhopal, died in Florida, United States in September 2014 without facing any trial in court. Indians. .

“Nothing has changed for the survivors, regardless of the political party in power, whether in Madhya Pradesh or in the Center. It has always been the interest of the former Union Carbide and now Dow Chemical, and not that of the victims of the gas tragedy, that has dictated the policies of governments, ”said Rachna Dhingra, founding member of the information and Bhopal stock.

Dhingra says that whether in the case of compensation, rehabilitation, medical treatment for survivors, punishment of the guilty, or transfer of toxic chemicals from the plant facilities, governments have been found to be woefully brief and continue to ignore the adverse impact of the gas in the next generations of victims.

“The US National Library of Medicine has recently compiled the health effects of MIC and illnesses caused as a result of exposure to MIC. They have established that hyperglycemia (diabetes), uremia (kidney disease), pulmonary fibrosis, lung disease and acidosis are associated with the long-term damage caused by it, ”said Dhingra.

She says that various documents state that injuries caused by exposure to methyl isocyanate (MIC) are permanent in nature, yet more than 90% of exposed victims have received only $ 500 as compensation for ‘temporary’ injuries.

Also read: 36 years later, survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy are battling obesity and thyroid disorders

Sadhna Karnik, the convenor of another rights organization, Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti, which has been fighting for the victims, says governments are making no effort to mitigate the effects of the toxic case even today.

“The gas leak from the plant continues to affect people in a vast area of ​​the city, but there is no effort by the central or state government to address the problem. Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Center (BMHRC), the hospital for the treatment of survivors, is in ruins, but there is no effort to improve the facilities there, ”Karnik said.

A banker, Jagdish Dubey, one of the victims of the tragedy said: “Observing the anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy has become a ritual for us and for the government. The authorities say lip service that they would investigate our problems and then nothing happens. Then there is another anniversary next year. ”

Also read: 3 women among 4 arrested for beating and undressing a woman in Madhya Pradesh

“Gas survivors have been demanding additional compensation for long-term injuries and vulnerabilities caused by gas exposure. This was revealed during the current Covid 19 pandemic. According to the official health department registry, the death rate from Covid-19 is 6.5 times higher among the gas-exposed population of the Bhopal district, ”Nawab said. Khan, President of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Vishwas Sarang said: “The issue of compensation is pending before the high court. Therefore, I cannot comment on it. Our government in the state is doing everything it can to provide the best medical facilities for gas survivors. Bhopal has a hospital dedicated to gas survivors. ”

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