Bhopal gas tragedy widows protest for increase in pensions

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Bhopal, Oct.14 (ANI): Hundreds of women widowed by the Bhopal gas tragedy protested here on Thursday, demanding adequate pension and enhanced compensation.

The members of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha led the rally of the widows and shouted slogans, demanding a raise in pension from the State Government.

"It's been 26 years since the gas tragedy and in these 26 years the condition of the gas victim widows has worsened. The Madhya Pradesh government has been backward in providing adequate compensation to these women. Even the compensation amount decided by the Group of Ministers (GoM) is very less," said Balkrishna Namdev, convener of the forum.

"When in 1990 no compensation was set up for these widows, then these women used to get rupees 750 as pension. And the Madhya Pradesh government has now announced only rupees 500 as pension to these widows. After 20 long years, only rupees 500 are being given to them, which is very less. We demand that gas tragedy widows should get at least rupees 1,000 as pension," he added.

Not being able to cope up with the spiralling inflation, the widows have taken to begging to earn some income.

The widows had received rupees 3,00,000 as compensation at the time of the industrial disaster. However, their rehabilitation programme was discontinued after 1996.

The protesters urged the Group of Ministers (GoM) and the State Government to consider enhanced compensation for the widows of the gas tragedy as well.

"We also demand that all the gas victims, who earlier used to get rupees 5,72,000 as compensation, should now get enhanced compensation amounting to minimum three lakh rupees. All the widows, old age people, specially-abled victims should get rupees 500 pension, BPL ration cards. For all these demands, we have staged this protest today," said Namdev.

Madhya Pradesh Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Babulal Gaur had announced two months ago that the State would provide rupees 500 per month to the widows.

On December 3, 1984, around 40 metric tonnes of toxic Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal into the atmosphere and was carried by the wind to the surrounding slums, claiming thousands of lives.

According to government sources, around 3,500 people died immediately due to the gas leak but social activists say the actual figures touched 25,000 in the years that followed. By Ram Chand Sahu (ANI)

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