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94 percent Bhopal victims not properly compensated: Activists

Tuesday December 20, 2011 11:48:03 AM, Shahnawaz Akhtar, IANS

Bhopal: Twenty-seven 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, told IANS.

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 satisfied with.

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 patients.

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 playing politics."

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 New York.

"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 shahnawaz.a@ians.in)


 

   

 


 

 

 

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