neither victims nor accused in the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy and yet
632 former permanent employees of the now defunct Union Carbide
plant find themselves at the receiving end.
They were employees at the plant, which saw the world's worst
industrial disaster break out on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984,
killing thousands of people. They complain of being driven to
virtual starvation in the absence of any relief.
"Sometimes, I want to commit suicide, but seeing the face of my
daughter and grandchildren I change my plan...," Champalal Gupta,
one of the former employees of the company, told IANS.
The employees, many of whom worked for over 15 years in the plant,
have got no compensation from either their company after its unit
was shut down or from the government. The plant was shut soon
after the industrial disaster in 1984 and the staff was paid
salaries for about six months.
"Till June 1985 we got salary. But thereafter we, along with 3,000
temporary employees, were given three months' salary and
terminated by the company," said Gupta, who was an operator in the
"When we were hired, in the service agreement it was mentioned
that if the company would terminate us (permanent employees), we
would get six years and three months' salary," he said.
Gupta and his colleagues filed a case in a labour court after
their termination. In 1996-97, the court gave a decision in favour
of the employees and told Union Carbide to give them six years and
three months' salary.
The company later moved an industrial court, where Gupta and
others lost the case. In 2003, Gupta and his colleagues moved the
Madhya Pradesh High Court, which is still hearing the case.
"The case is in the final stage, but we do not have money to pay
fees to our lawyers and because of it the matter is pending,"
"We have already spent all our money in court hearings and there
is no money left with us to feed ourselves. How can we give fees
to lawyers?" asked Gupta.
He complained of the government not considering them for relief.
"Even after working for 13-15 years in the plant, the government
refused to treat us as gas victims and did not consider us for
relief," Gupta said.
Ironically, not too many know of their plight even as victims of
the tragedy are still fighting for justice.
Another former permanent employee, Jagdish Sharma, told IANS:
"Though we were permanent employees, the company cheated us by
taking action under the provisions meant for dismissal of casual
"We and our families have been suffering for two decades," he
Forty tonnes of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas seeped out of the
plant on the night of Dec 2-3. It killed 3,000 people instantly
and 25,000 over the years. It also affected 100,000 people that
night and estimates are more than 500,000 still continue to suffer
in myriad ways.
Akhtar can be contacted at email@example.com)