38th anniversary of Bhopal gas disaster: Activists urge Madhya Pradesh government to  present correct figures of death and health damage before the Supreme Court

Organisations of survivors of the gas disaster recounted several instances of unkept promises of the state government but hoped that the Supreme Court would not be misled by the government during the hearing of the curative petition seeking higher compensation.

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ON the occasion of the 38th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster, leaders of five survivors’ organisations representing the Bhopal gas disaster survivors have, on Friday, expressed the hope that the Madhya Pradesh government would fulfil its promise of presenting correct figures of death and health damage caused by the disaster in the soon-to-be-heard curative petition before the Supreme Court.

The five survivor organisations are Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogee Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, and Children Against Dow – Carbide.

The leaders of these organisations announced their participation at the rally at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, to be held on Saturday, on the issue of additional compensation for the disaster from Union Carbide and Dow Chemical.

Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, a trade union of women survivors of the disaster, recalled the promises made by the state government. She said that on November 17, the Principal Secretary of Bhopal Gas Tragedy (Relief and Rehabilitation) of the state government, Caralyn Khongwar Deshmukh, had assured that the state government would present the correct figures and that the survivors suffered permanent and not temporary injury from the disaster.  However, she expressed her apprehension that the state government might not keep its promise as a similar one was made by it on the 27th anniversary of the disaster, with no follow-up action being taken by it.  

Balkrishna Namdeo, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogee Sangharsh Morcha, claimed that the state Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan had promised lifelong pensions to women widowed by the Bhopal disaster on its 36th anniversary. However, official reports say that 569 women widowed by the disaster have not yet received any pension, Namdeo pointed out. He added that if the state government fails to abide by its promise of presenting correct figures of death and health damage before the Supreme Court, it will amount to misleading the Court by its act of omission.

Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action pointed out that the state government did not keep its promise of  2010 of inviting global tenders for remediation of the contaminated lands near Union Carbide’s abandoned factory. Dhingra added that the state government’s promise to set up an expert panel to assess the environmental damage caused by Union Carbide and Dow Chemical and seek compensation from them also remains unfulfilled. “The victims of the gas disaster can receive just compensation only if the state government presents correct figures of damage”, Dhingra stated.

Nawab Khan of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha expressed his dismay over the state government’s failure to meet its commitment made on the 26th anniversary of the disaster to set up a Special Cell for close monitoring of all legal proceedings related to the Bhopal disaster.

Khan stated that it was frustrating to watch the state government’s counsel remaining quiet during the proceedings of the hearing of the  Curative Petition before the Supreme Court. “We hope during the hearing on January 10, the state government’s counsel will argue for the revised figures of death and injury,” Khan said.

Nousheen Khan of Children Against Dow–Carbide hoped to secure legal rights to adequate compensation for the Bhopal survivors, if the state government delivers its promise. Quoting the words of Ghalib, she exclaimed, “we hope for loyalty from those who do not know what loyalty is”.

38th Anniversary of Bhopal gas disaster

  • Survivors’ organisations allege the Madhya Pradesh government failed to keep its promises with regard to presenting correct figures of deaths and health damages resulting from the disaster.
  • Victims and survivors who remain uncompensated will suffer if the state government continues its omissions and commissions before the Supreme Court
  • Counsel representing Madhya Pradesh government in the Supreme Court urged to respond better to the queries from the bench during future hearings of the curative petition
  • All eyes are on the mobilisation of activists and peaceful dharna on Saturday at Jantar Mantar, Delhi, to make it a success.

(Contributed by Nakul Rai Khurana and Kshipra Shukla, interns with The Leaflet)