The Supreme Court is set to hear the curative petition on January 10, 2023.
FIVE organisations representing survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy have condemned the ongoing silence of the Union Government and the Madhya Pradesh government over the figures of death and the extent of injuries caused by the disaster in 1984. In a press release on December 20, the organisations announced that if they do not get information on the revised figures in the curative petition before the Supreme Court by December 26, they will launch a peaceful mass action to make the governments fulfil their promise.
The curative petition asks for additional compensation from Union Carbide, responsible for the tragedy, and its owner Dow Chemicals, for the victims of the tragedy.
Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, a trade union of women survivors of the disaster, said that the Principal Secretary of the Department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy (Relief & Rehabilitation) of the Government of Madhya Pradesh, Caralyn Khongwar Deshmukh, on November 17, assured them that in accordance with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s views, the state government will ensure that figures of disaster-related deaths are revised upward from 5,295 to 15,342, and injuries suffered by all of the 5,21,332 exposed persons be considered permanent in nature in the curative petition.
However, Bee noted that two weeks have passed since the documents were submitted to the Supreme Court, and they have not been updated on whether the state government has actually got the revision done.
The President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Balkrishnan Namdeo, stated that they submitted the documents in support of the upward revision of figures of damages as per the directions from the office of the Attorney General for India. However, they are still awaiting confirmation that the requisite information has been incorporated in the compilation of the document submitted to the Supreme Court.
Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action, speaking against stonewalling by bureaucrats in the union and state governments, said that they met officials in the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and those in the state government’s Department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation, but they refused to share concrete information in this regard.
Shahzadi Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, noted that they have maintained patience and restrained themselves ever since the hearing on the curative petition began in October, but the judges cannot be kept in the dark about the actual damage caused by the disaster. The entire point of the curative petition will be lost and justice will again be denied to the victims, Bee stated.
She further said that they will wait till December 26 to confirm that the figures have been upwardly revised. After this, they will organise large-scale, peaceful, direct action in support of their constitutional and legal rights.
Nousheen Khan, of Children Against Dow Carbide, reiterated that the Attorney General for India had stated in October that the government is committed to securing the best interests of the Bhopal victims. Khan questioned, “If indeed the government has kept its promise, why is there such an utter absence of transparency?”
About the curative petition
In August, these organisations welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court to hear the curative petition on additional damages. However, the leaders expressed their dismay over the government 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 dollars with Union Carbide by the Union Government. The petition sought additional funds of Rs. 7,844 crore rupees over the amount already paid.
The petition was heard in October by a 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. During the hearing, the Attorney General for India, R. Venkataramani, expressed his keenness to pursue the matter.