33 yrs on, Bhopal gas tragedy survivors still await adequate payout
Bhopal, Dec 3: Thirty-three years after the Bhopal gas tragedy, survivors are still fighting for adequate compensation and proper medical treatment for ailments caused by the toxic leak.
Families of the deceased and people who bore the brunt of the industrial disaster are now signing a petition, to be sent to the Supreme Court, requesting it to start hearing a curative petition of the government filed in December 2010 for more compensation.
The US company which then owned the chemical plant here, from where the poisonous gas leaked in 1984, has not yet adequately compensated the victims, a Madhya Pradesh minister said. The victims of the "world's worst disaster" had not been paid adequately by US-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) now owned by Dow Chemicals, MP's Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Vishwas Sarang told PTI. He alleged that the then Central government led by the Congress was more interested in helping the multi-national company rather than bringing it to book.
"The Central and the state governments, both led by the Congress, helped the then UCC chairman, Warren Anderson, who had come to Bhopal after the tragedy, to escape to the US," Sarang claimed. He said the curative petition seeks compensation of more than Rs 1,000 crore from the UCC (now owned by Dow) for the welfare of the victims.
Abdul Jabbar, the convenor of the Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghathan, who has been working for the survivors for over three decades, said the UCC gave a compensation of USD 470 million (Rs 715 crore) after the toxic gas leak from the Union Carbide factory on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, killed 3,000 people and affected 1.02 lakh others.
"We all challenged the meagre compensation in the Supreme Court saying that the number of victims was 'too high' and the compensation given by Union Carbide was 'too small' in 1989," Jabbar said. He added that the claim courts for the tragedy started work in Bhopal in 1990 and completed it by 2005. The Rs 715 crore-compensation was paid to the families of 15,274 deceased and 5.74 lakh affected by the leak, he said. Jabbar said the signature campaign for more compensation was launched by those whose health had been affected by the gas leak. "We moved the apex court again in 2005 saying that the number of victims had swelled five fold," Jabbar said.
On December 3, 2010, the Centre and the state government filed a curative petition in the apex court seeking more compensation for the victims from UCC, Jabbar said. "But nothing has happened after that. So now the sufferers are signing the petition, with a request to the Supreme Court to hear the curative petition and decide the matter at the earliest," he added.
The survivors were suffering from many diseases, including cancer, tumours and lung problems, caused by the inhalation of the poisonous gas three decades ago, he said. "They are not getting proper medical care as they don't have money," Jabbar said. He accused the Congress government and the BJP-led NDA rule of not doing enough to bring Anderson to book. "Anderson escaped from the country after the Congress government as the Centre buckled under US pressure in 1984," he claimed.
The CBI, when the NDA was in power in 2002, tried to "dilute the charges" against Anderson which made the extradition of the US national difficult, he added. On June 7, 2010, a Bhopal court convicted seven executives of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) to two years' imprisonment in connection with the incident. Anderson was the prime accused in the case but did not appear for the trial. On February 1, 1992, the Bhopal CJM court declared him an absconder. The courts in Bhopal had issued non-bailable warrants against Anderson twice -- in 1992 and 2009. Anderson died in September, 2014.