By Pervez Bari
BHOPAL –A month-long campaign has been launched by the Bhopal survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster here to make governments at the state, and the Centre honour their promises for additional compensation before the 38th anniversary of the disaster.
Addressing a Press Conference, five organizations of survivors of the Union Carbide disaster shared their plan to hold a peaceful rally in New Delhi on the occasion of the 38th Anniversary of the disaster on December 3, 2022.
“We are launching our campaign to remind the governments at the state and the Centre of their promises regarding additional compensation for the disaster. We will spend the month of November in convincing the state government and lead a peaceful rally on December 3 at Jantar Mantar to remind the central government of its promises.” said Ms Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh. She was one of the 100 “women achievers” awarded by the President of India in 2016.
Questioning the state government’s inactivity on the soon-to-be-heard Curative Petition for additional compensation, Balkrishna Namdeo, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha, said, “Why has our Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan not moved a finger on providing correct figures of death and the extent of injury to the Supreme Court when he had openly and declared in 2011 that the state government agreed with the stand of the survivors’ organizations on the issue of additional compensation. He had even promised to join a delegation of survivors’ representatives to meet with the Prime Minister on this matter.”
Ms Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action presented copies of a letter written by the current Chief Minister Chouhan to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in January 2012 in which the official death count was made to be 15,342 and not 5295 as presented in the Curative Petition. “In his letter, the Chief Minister had argued for Rs.5 lakhs to be paid as compensation to each gas-exposed person. So, what is stopping him from sending a similar letter to the present Prime Minister?” she asked.
Shahzadi Bee of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha produced video evidence [Link] of the Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers’ commitment to the representatives of the survivors’ organizations in 2014 on the matter of additional compensation. “More recently, the present Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers has assured our colleague, Rashida Bee, over the phone that he has understood our stand on the matter and will take steps in our support,” he said.
Ms Nausheen Khan of Children Against Dow Carbide said the campaign supported additional compensation of Rs. Six lakhs for each gas-exposed person has gathered over 30 thousand signatures. “Everyday survivors are gathering at Neelam park to join the campaign to make the government upwardly revise the claim for additional compensation from the American companies from Rs. 96 billion to Rs. 646 billion.”
Meanwhile, it may be recalled here that on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing factory, which has been abandoned since then, had spewed 40.000 tonnes of poisonous Methyl Iso-cyanate gas whereby 3000 people had perished virtually instantly. Over the years, more than 25000 have kissed death, and the sad saga continues uninterruptedly. Moreover, about half a million are suffering from the poisonous gas’ side effects, and several thousand people have been maimed for life.