years after the world's worst industrial disaster affected around
500,000 innocent lives, 94 percent of the victims have still not
received proper compensation, say activists.
"Neither in compensation nor punishment or rehabilitation have
people got justice. What 94 percent survivors have got if you
divide it with time, you will find is only Rs.150 per month,"
Abdul Jabbar, convener of the Bhopal Gas Mahila Udyog Sangathan,
On the intervening night of Dec 2-3, 1984, tonnes of poisonous
methyl isocyanate had leaked from the then Union Carbide factory
in Bhopal, killing over 3,000 people instantly and around 25,000
over the years.
The Madhya Pradesh government's Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and
Rehabilitation website shows that till Oct 30, 2008, over 500,000
were affected by the tragedy.
The government has distributed Rs.2,300 crore ($430 million) cash
as compensation in three instalments -- 1992-1999, 2004 and 2011
-- but it's only the recent compensation the activists are
In 2011, the victims got compensation under five categories - Rs.1
million for death, Rs.500,000 for permanent disability, Rs.100,000
for temporary injury and Rs.200,000 for renal failure and cancer
Till 2008, all the 500,000 people had been compensated, but only
with a mere Rs.25,000-50,000, say activists.
It was only in 2011 that the compensation touched the six digit
figure per victim. However, that was unfortunately for only 45,562
people, the rest -- close to 455,000 victims -- are still not
adequately compensated, activists say.
Sample this, Babu Khan of Jai Prakash Nagar lost two daughters in
the Bhopal gas tragedy. The younger one, Quresha, died 15 days
after the disaster while elder one, Zulekha, never stayed well
after the fateful day and succumbed in 1987.
Khan received Rs.1 million compensation for Quresha but got only
Rs.40,000 for Zulekha.
Or take the case of Muneer Khan who survived the disaster but
never really recovered. He died in March 1987 due to
breathlessness and sickness. His family says they got only
Rs.50,000 as compensation.
Then there's Pramod Thakur of Kainchi Chola who was two years of
age when he lost his father to the disaster. Though his family has
received Rs.1 million as compensation for Lal's death, Pramod, who
developed serious respiratory problems, has never received any
compensation for himself.
"When first time compensation was going to be distributed, I was
told that I am too young to get it. And later they never
acknowledged me," Pramod told IANS.
In 1989, when the settlement took place between the Indian
government and Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), the government
settled down with just $470 million.
"The benefits may be less or more, but we have tried to keep the
issue alive. I have filed 11 petitions so far. On every occasion,
when injustice was done by the government and courts, we fought
and raised the issue," Jabbar said.
Echoing Jabbar's view, Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for
Information and Action said: "Around 93-94 percent victims are yet
to get actual compensation, but the government is just busy
To press the Madhya Pradesh and central governments that they
present actual victim figures in the ongoing curative petition in
the Supreme Court, survivors stopped trains on the 27th
anniversary of the gas tragedy.
"Except the victims, everybody who was associated with the gas
tragedy benefited. Whether it is doctors whose patients increased,
bureaucrats who went on foreign tours or the business community
whose business increased as people travelled to Bhopal," Rajkumar
Keshwani, a senior journalist, told IANS.
"It is very unfortunate that gas survivors have got very little
benefits so far," said Keshwani, who claims he had warned about
the disaster two years ahead.
But the little survivors have got so far because of the fights of
some activists from roads to courts, from Bhopal to Delhi to even
"Apart from other cases, we have also been fighting a case of
clean-up of toxic waste in a New York court since 1999 against
UCIL and Warren Anderson," Sarangi told IANS.
Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Babulal Gaur
is also among the survivors, but he prefers to put the
compensation issue in the centre's court.
"It was a very big tragedy and only a few got compensated well. So
we will seek more money from the centre," Gaur told IANS.
(Shahnawaz Akhtar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)