Addressing a press conference today representatives of five organizations working among the survivors of the Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal condemned the National Institute for Research on Environmental Health (NIREH) for betraying the promises made during its founding in October 2010.
The organizations said that NIREH was established as the 31st centre of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on 11th October 2010 with the primary objective of carrying out research that would benefit the survivors of the disaster who are still battling chronic illnesses. They said that despite the passage of more than two years, the centre has published only a manual for treatment of mental illnesses and less than two hundred survivors have received help in treatment for chronic respiratory diseases and eye problems.
Based on documents obtained through the RTI Act the organizations said that NIREH has spent more than Rs. 8 crores in the last two years and has imported close to 30 equipments from USA, Germany, Japan and other countries. However, only two of these equipments have been put to use so far.
The organizations said that of the five Bhopal based consultants employed by NIREH, three have full time jobs. In addition to their salaries for their full time jobs these three have been drawing Rs.40, 000 per month from NIREH as part time consultants. Interestingly, their duty hours at their places of fulltime employment overlap their duty hours as part time consultants at NIREH.
The organizations charged that majority of the consultants do not have the required qualifications to carry out the research projects proposed by them and none have published any papers on the topics proposed by them.
One of the consultants -Dr Brajendra Mishra who is supposed to be the Principal Investigator for a project to set up a registry on birth defects has never worked on the subject and there is proof that that parts of his research proposal at NIREH has been plagiarized from publications available on the internet. Moreover, in a clear demonstration of conflict of interest his Rs. 3 Crores project proposes providing treatment to children with birth defects at the Chirayu Hospital whereas he is a professor of community medicine in the medical college run by the same establishment.
Another consultant Dr. Arun Bhatnagar who is the Principal Investigator of a study on birth defects is according to his own website a specialist in “cosmetic and plastic surgery and performs face lifts, implants, fat injections, breast and other surgeries”. He has no published study on birth defects and his Rs. 1 crore project is awaiting approval by ICMR.
The organizations said that except the manual on mental health care there has been no publication by the NIREH in the last more than two years. The technical report on long term epidemiological study from 1995 to 2010 has been revised four times but remains at the draft stage. A quarterly bulletin in Hindi proposed in September 2011 remains to see the light of the day.
The organisations were the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, the Bhopal Group for Information and Action and Children Against Dow Carbide.