Commemorating the 37th anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, four organisations of survivors have launched a campaign, “Bhopal Disaster: 37 years; 37 questions”, to shine light on the “ongoing disaster” as lakhs of people still struggle for compensation, justice and rehabilitation.
As part of the campaign, the survivors will ask one question every day for the next 37 days, starting Tuesday, over the aftermath of the disaster, Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh said in a release.
“While both central and state governments agreed in 2010 that the American corporations had to pay additional compensation, neither has filed an application for urgent hearing of the Curative Petition pending before the Supreme court till today. We want to know why the governments have chosen not to get the petition heard for last 11 years,” Bee added.
Thousands of people were killed and more than 5.58 lakh others were affected after methyl isocyanate leaked on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 from the pesticide plant of Union Carbide India Limited, then located on the outskirts of the state capital Bhopal.
The survivors of the tragedy have been fighting for long for adequate compensation and proper medical treatment for ailments caused by the toxic leak.
The Supreme Court had listed on February 11, 2020 the Centre’s plea seeking Rs 7,844 crore as additional funds from successor firms of the US-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) for giving compensation to victims of the 1984 tragedy. However, the matter was not heard then.
“Dow Chemical USA (now owner of UCC)’s business in India has grown dramatically in last seven years. In these seven years, the company has ignored six successive summons issued by the Bhopal District Court to appear in the criminal case on the disaster,“ said Shehzadi Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha.
“So our question of the day would be how can the Indian government allow a company that does not obey laws of the land to do business in this country?” she said.
Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action raised questions on the medical treatment being provided to the survivors.
“Despite the passage of 37 years, the mainstay of healthcare of the survivors continue to be symptomatic drugs that provide temporary relief if at all. So we will be asking such basic questions like — why no treatment protocols for exposure related chronic illnesses till today?”
The campaign will also raise questions regarding environmental pollution following the disaster.
“We will be asking questions on issues of ongoing contamination and remediation of the land in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory,” said Nousheen Khan of Children Against Dow Carbide. ”Like despite being entitled by laws in India and USA to seek compensation from Dow Chemical for the polluted land, why has the MP Government never filed a claim against the corporation.”
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