At a press conference today five organizations working for the victims of the December ‘84 Union Carbide disaster accused the central and state governments of downplaying the damage caused by the American company in the curative petitions filed in the Supreme Court. The organizations demanded that in place of Rs 3,000-6,000 crores the government should ask Union Carbide and its current owner Dow Chemical to pay over Rs 37,000 crores for deaths and personal injuries. The organizations stated that they will start agitations in support of this demand from July 25.
The organizations said that the injury categories assigned to the victims were unscientific and without basis and demanded that the government seek at least Rs 6 lakhs as compensation per victim from Union Carbide.
Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information and Action said that recently their organizations have obtained Top Secret documents that show that Union Carbide was proposing a settlement within three months of the disaster. He said that because of its collusion with the American company, the Indian government introduced injury categories and later paid the minimum amount of Rs 25,000 as compensation to 94% of the victims with lifelong injuries by arbitrarily assigning them temporary injury category. Satinath said that Union Carbide had proposed payment of Rs 1 lakh for each death and six years later this is the amount that the government actually paid the Bhopal victims.
Balkrishna Namdeo of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha said that on the basis of the figures published by the government’s apex medical research organization, Indian Council of Medical Research, at least 20,0000 people have died till 2009. He said that ICMR’s research shows that between 1984 and 1989 there were 3500 spontaneous abortions as a result of gas exposure and these need to be included in counting disaster related loss of life. Namdeo said that in the curative petition filed in the Supreme Court, the government has gone against the findings of its own research agency and presented a ridiculously low figure of 5295 deaths as a consequence of the disaster.
Rashida Bee of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh who is involved with rehabilitation of children of gas affected parents with congenital malformations, said that in the curative petition the government has not asked for any compensation for damages caused to the next generation of victims. She said that studies published in international scientific journals such as the Journal of American Medical Association and the American Journal of Industrial Medicine show that the poisons of Union Carbide have affected the next generation too. Rashida Bee pointed out that in October 1991 the Supreme Court had directed the Indian government to provide medical insurance coverage to the next generation of victims but this order remains to be implemented.
The organizations stated that the basis of the curative petitions filed by the central and state governments is that the figures of death and injury presented in 1989 were not correct. However these figures have not been corrected in the current curative petition so that the Supreme Court cannot provide justice to the Bhopal victims even if it wants to. The organization said that for the last one year they have been writing to the Prime Minister and Group of Ministers on Bhopal on the specific issue of deaths and health damage caused by Union Carbide in Bhopal but they have not received any response so far.
Rashida Bi, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh: 94 2568 8215
Nawab Khan , Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha: 93 0279 2493
Balkrishna Namdeo, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha: 98 2634 5423
Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action: 98 2616 7369
Safreen Khan, Children Against Dow Carbide: 93 0383 1487