Corruption Kills: Bhopal Gas Victims Demand Strong Jan Lokpal Bill
At a press conference today, five organizations working with survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster announced their action plans as part of the “India Against Corruption” campaign. They will be holding a demonstration at the Union Carbide factory tomorrow at noon to condemn the anti-corruption bill proposed by the central government. Survivors from Bhopal will be joining the actions led by Anna Hazare and solidarity actions in Bhopal from August 16.
Survivors of the Bhopal disaster said that a strong Jan Lokpal Bill is required to deal with corruption at all levels in the central and state governments and the judiciary. They said that corruption has been, and continues to be a significant reason in the denial of proper medical care, rehabilitation and fair compensation.
Rashida Bee, president of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh said, “For the last 27 years we, Bhopalis, have been victims of corruption by Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers, Ministers in the state and central governments, Judges in the Supreme Courts and Claim tribunals, bureaucrats of all ranks and other employees, government scientists and doctors, and its time to start putting an end to it in right earnest.”
Balkrishna Namdeo, president of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha said that in the last 27 years, crores of rupees from the public exchequer have been misappropriated every year in the medical care and rehabilitation of the Bhopal gas victims. He pointed out that a former Minister of Gas relief in the state government who had had to resign in the face of corruption charges earlier, has now been rehabilitated in the state cabinet with three portfolios.
Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action said that in the government system of medical care, corruption in the purchase of medicines for gas victims is most illustrative of the failure of the existing systems to deal with corruption.
She said that in December 2006 survivors organizations had carried out a citizens’ raid on two drug stores of the gas relief department. Based on the information collected during the raid, in January 2007 a submission was made to the Supreme Court pointing out that more than half of the medicines meant for gas victims were purchased from companies known to produce sub-standard medicines.
In March 2007, six survivors and supporters went on a 19-day fast and dharna, demanding supply of quality medicines and other improvements in medical care and rehabilitation. While the survivors on fast are still facing charges for attempted suicide, nothing has been done to improve the quality of the medicines.
In September 2007, the organizations complained about the quality of drugs in gas relief hospitals to the Monitoring Committee set up by the Supreme Court. On 27 May 2008, the Monitoring Committee submitted its 7th report pointing out that none of its recommendations, including those about improving quality of medicines, had been followed by the state government. In its 7th report, the Monitoring Committee asked the Supreme Court to bestow certain powers so that it could ensure that the state government followed its recommendations.
In January 2011, the Supreme Court asked the Monitoring Committee to list out the powers that it would like to have to effect improvement in the medical care of the Bhopal victims.
According to the survivors’ organizations, in March 2011, the Monitoring Committee did draw up a list of powers that it would like to have, but due to the machinations of the corrupt bureaucrats and others in the state government, the list remains to be presented before the Supreme Court. Survivors’ organizations charged the Ministry of Bhopal Gas Tragedy with sabotaging the work of the Monitoring Committee so that it could continue with its corrupt ways.
Survivors’ organizations said that their recent investigation into quality of drug supply shows that several Indore-based manufacturers known to be suppliers of substandard medicines such as Quest Laboratories, Deepin Pharmaceuticals and Zenith Drugs have continued to sell their drugs regularly to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department from 2007 till today (details of companies). They said that this was in clear violation of the Monitoring Committee’s recommendations in its 3rd, 4th and 6th reports to the Supreme Court.