In an interview this morning with the Times of India, Bhopal Survivor Groups reported that data gathered during the pandemic shows nearly 40% of those who have so far died from Covid-19 in the city were survivors of the 1984 gas disaster.
Over the past months since the second wave of Covid-19 in India this Spring, survivor organisations have compiled a ‘master list’ of the total number of coronavirus deaths in the city and submitted it to the Madhya Pradesh State government. The list names a total of 1225 people who have died of the virus, of whom 467 (38%) are reported to be survivors of MIC gas from the Union Carbide factory. The official government death toll for Bhopal still stands at 974, and the Madhya Pradesh Gas Relief Department and Bhopal District Officials do not appear to have kept an official count of deaths among gas victims.
In a letter to state authorities submitted along with the updated ‘master list’ of Covid deaths, the Survivor Groups have demanded the unreported deaths be included in the official records. They have provided evidence showing they have followed up on 1,167 of the reported deaths, but were unable to trace families or contacts of the remaining 58. They have also submitted evidence to show that 467 of those who died were gas survivors. This includes documentation for 360 deaths consisting of either government-issued smart cards provided to survivors for treatment, or court documents showing receipt of compensation for gas exposure. They have been unable to procure official documentation for the remaining 107 survivors, but have requested that the Gas Relief Department should request the relevant documents from the welfare commissioner to confirm.
“Over the past 18 months, we have constantly raised the issue of underreporting of gas-victim Covid deaths and have repeatedly presented evidence of these deaths which are yet to be included in the official list. The data clearly shows that our apprehensions regarding the increased vulnerability of the survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster to Covid-19 were well founded. Despite this, none of the Covid-19 data on infection rates and deaths among gas victims has been properly maintains” the letter concludes. It has been signed by four major Bhopal survivor groups: The Bhopal Group for Information and Action, Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh and Children Against Dow-Carbide.