’Right the wrongs, pay homage to victims’
Story Dated: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 12:25 hrs IST
Bhopal, Nov 30: Bhopal gas disaster victims Monday wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Vice President Hamid Ansari, the Rajya Sabha chairman, saying parliament should pay homage to the hundreds of thousands affected by the tragedy 25 years ago.
"We would like to remind you that on the night of 02/03 December 1984, over two-thirds of the 900,000 residents of the city of Bhopal were exposed to highly toxic gases that escaped from the premises of Union Carbide India Ltd, which was controlled by the Union Carbide Corp, a US multinational company," they said in the letter.
"We, hereby, humbly urge you to take the initiative in ensuring that the members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha would, on this occasion, pay homage to the victims of the world's worst chemical disaster."
Abdul Jabbar, convenor of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sanghathan (BGPMUS), and N.D. Jayprakash, co-convenor of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti (BGPSSS), sent the letter separately to Meira Kumar and Ansari.
It also expressed hope that the members of the houses would prevail upon the government of India to make amends for its past mistakes related to the tragedy.
The letter, which mentions the tragedy, its aftermath, the inadequate compensation and improper rehabilitation, also speaks about the adverse health impact that continues to dog the victims.
The claim courts in Bhopal have determined that 574,367 victims had suffered injuries in varying degree causing the untimely death of several thousands.
"The grievousness of the injuries suffered by the victims are such that even 25 years after the disaster no less than 6,000 victims continue to visit hospitals every day due to disaster-related ailments," the letter said.
Progenies of gas victims appear to be suffering from genetic effects and, reportedly, there is a rise in cancer cases of various kinds, it adds. The letter further mentions that what is equally worse is that each gas victim was in fact awarded less than one-fifth of what he or she was eligible to receive as per the terms of settlement, which itself was a paltry sum compared to the magnitude and gravity of the disaster.
"What is equally worse is that the settlement amount of $470 million, which was determined on the assumption that there were only about 105,000 gas victims, including 3,000 dead, was actually disbursed to 574,367 gas victims, including over 15,000 dead," it says.
The next of kin of each of the dead were awarded a sum of Rs.200,000 on an average and each of the injured was awarded a sum of Rs.50,000 on an average. However, none of the gas victims was paid interest for the period of delay in the award of compensation despite the fact the process of adjudication of claims stretched from 1992 to 2006, that is eight to 22 years after the disaster.
Moreover, the accused officials of Union Carbide are yet to be punished for their criminal negligence that led to the tragedy.
"In fact, the government of India has made little effort to bring prime accused Warren Anderson and concerned officials of accused companies Union Carbide Corporation and Union Carbide Eastern to face trial in India," it says.
"Instead, the government of India is doing all it can to please Dow Chemical Co, the present owners of Union Carbide Corp."