The Supreme Court is set to hear the curative petition on additional compensation on January 10. However, the demands of the survivors’ organisations to revise figures of death and the extent of injuries in the petition, as promised, are yet to be fulfilled.
TODAY, 10 women survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy began an indefinite fast without water. The survivors, represented by several organisations, have been demanding additional compensation for deaths and injuries caused by the disaster. This announcement comes after the organisations, earlier this month, declared their willingness to launch a peaceful mass agitation if the figures in the curative petition are not revised.
The leaders of the five survivors’ organisation, in the press conference, voiced that the Bhopal survivors will be denied proper compensation once again if the Union and the Madhya Pradesh Governments do not revise the figure of death and the extent of injuries in the curative petition.
Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, a trade union of women survivors of the disaster, stated that ten brave sisters, who began their waterless fast, are from low-caste Hindu and Muslim families below the poverty line. They continue to suffer from chronic exposure-induced illnesses. According to Bee, most of them have lost their family members due to the disaster. Some of their children and grandchildren live with congenital malformations.
Bee noted, “Yet, like 93 per cent of the affected population, they have been paid only 25 thousand rupees for injuries caused by the disaster.”
The President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Pensionbhogee Sangharsh Morcha, Balkrishna Namdeo, called on the Union and state governments for arbitrarily stopping the registration of death claims in 1997. Namdeo said, “The government is telling the Supreme Court that only 5,295 people died due [to] the disaster.”
According to Namdeo’s statement, official records clearly show thousands of people continue to die from illnesses caused by the disaster after 1997 and the actual figure of death is close to 25,000.
“The party ruling the state and central governments, that is downplaying the death figures, is close to Dow Chemical that is known to have contributed to the party’s campaign funds,” Namdeo concluded.
Rachna Dhingra, of Bhopal Group for Information & Action, speaking on the waterless fast by the women survivors, said that this agitation would ensure that the Supreme Court can know the true magnitude of the damage brought by Union Carbide.
“The government is doing its best to mislead the apex court of our country regarding the world’s worst industrial disaster and we are being threatened with police action for speaking out against this,” Dhingra noted.
Nawab Khan, of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, said that the Union Government is helping Dow Chemical escape liability. That is why the Union Government is telling the Supreme Court that 90 per cent of the people exposed to Union Carbide’s deadly gas have been only temporarily injured, he claimed.
According to Khan, the Union Government has deliberately chosen not to present hospital records and research data that reveals those who were exposed to the gas suffered permanent injuries and chronic diseases.
Khan further indicated that the official records show that 95 per cent of the affected people who got cancer and 97 per cent of those who suffered fatal kidney diseases are categorised as temporarily injured.
“The overwhelming majority of the gas affected population is Muslim and low caste Hindu. This seems to be the other reason the government is not interested in presenting the true extent of health damage caused to the survivors,” Khan said.
Nousheen Khan, of Children Against Dow Carbide, recalled that a promise was made by the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and the Principal Secretary of the Department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy (Relief & Rehabilitation) of the Government of Madhya Pradesh, Caralyn Khongwar Deshmukh. “Neither of them would, however, let us know whether the figures of the deaths and extent of injuries have actually been revised in the curative petition,” Khan said.
In August, these organisations welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court to hear a curative petition on additional damages. However, the leaders expressed their dismay over the government’s downplaying deaths and the extent of injuries, and denial of just compensation to the survivors. The curative petition was filed in 2010 against the 1989 settlement of 470 million USD. The petition sought additional funds of Rs. 7,844 crore rupees over the amount already paid.
The petition was heard in October by the Supreme Court constitution bench of Justices S.K. Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, A.S. Oka, Vikram Nath and J.K. Maheshwari in Union of India & Ors versus Union Carbide & Ors. The Attorney General for India, R. Venkataramani, expressed his keenness in pursuing the matter.