On Tuesday, November 24th, four survivor organisations in Bhopal held a press conference to announce that the disproportionately high death rate of survivors in Bhopal from Covid-19 shows that survivors’ injuries from gas exposures were not temporary, and as such they are owed additional compensation as per the terms of the Curative Petition still pending in the Supreme Court of India. New data from a study of Bhopal deaths from Covid-19 has revealed that 254 of the 450 total deaths (56%) in the city so far were of gas survivors. Given that gas survivors make up only 20% of the city’s population (roughly 463,000 of 2.3 million people), this means that the mortality rate among survivors is over 6.5 time higher than in the non gas-exposed population. If rates among the gas exposed population mirrored those in the non-exposed population, the expected number of deaths would be 74 – meaning there have been 180 excess deaths among the survivor population due to their vulnerability stemming from long-term health effects of the disaster.
These figures serve as a stark reminder that the figures cited by Union Carbide in their original compensation settlement – that 90% of those exposed to toxic methyl isocyanate gases from the plant suffered only temporary injuries – do not reflect the long-term damage done to a majority of survivors who are now facing a fresh crisis due to Covid-19. Those diagnosed with ‘temporary’ injuries from the gas received only 500 US dollars in compensation in the original settlement.
We hope that the survivor’s message will be heard and that when the curative petition appears before the Supreme Court, that Dow Chemical, who assumed legal responsibility for the disaster following their buyout of Union Carbide in 2001, will finally pay compensation to the victims that reflects the long-term nature of their injuries.
Four Bhopal Survivor Organisations Issue Joint Press Statement:
Four organizations of survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster demanded that Union Carbide and its owner Dow Chemical pay additional compensation for the long term injuries caused to the gas exposed people as evidenced in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The organizations presented official records which showed that Covid-19 death rate in the gas exposed population is 6.5 times more that of the non gas-exposed population of the Bhopal district.
“The Pandemic has exposed the official lie that 93% of those exposed to Union Carbide’s poisonous gases had only temporary injuries. “ said Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh. “We have official records that show that the gas exposed population, that is 17% of the district’s population of 2.8 million, has contributed to 56% of the Covid-19 deaths in the district so far.
“It is time the Indian government presented these and other hospital records before the Supreme Court that is yet to hear the Curative Petition for additional compensation for damage caused by the December 1984 disaster” said Nawab Khan, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha.
Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action said that Union Carbide’s own documents state that the injuries caused by exposure to Methyl Isocyanate are permanent in nature yet more than 90% of the exposed people have been paid only 500 US dollars compensation for temporary injuries “It is a pity that it took a global Pandemic to highlight the injustice meted to the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster.” she said.
“Dow Chemical has used the Pandemic to cut thousands of jobs and make more profit by producing hand sanitisers, but it looks the other way when the Pandemic exposes the lasting damage its subsidiary caused in Bhopal. Dow Chemical continues to evade the pending civil, criminal and environmental liabilities of Union Carbide in Bhopal.” Said Nausheen Khan of Children Against Dow Carbide.