At a press conference, held on August 1, the combined groups representing survivors of the 1984 Gas Disaster protested a proposed suspension of the Bhopal Gas Relief Department and asked the government to clear its position in the matter. According to the groups, the recommendation to shut down the gas relief department is inhuman, illegal and represents a negligent act of administrative responsibility.
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Good Governance and Policy Analysis, under the Madhya Pradesh government, has proposed the closure claiming that a low budget and ‘lack of adequate work’ in the department should see it merged with the Department of Family Welfare and Health. But disaster survivors believe that other issues of concern to them, including compensation for gas victims, the cleaning of toxic wastes, employment, pension and all other legal issues, will be spread around various departments making them harder to pursue.
A press release from the groups stated:
“The recommendation to shut the department is completely inhuman.” Bhopal gas-peedit Mahila
“This recommendation is not only inhuman but also illegal. Cases concerning treatment, compensation, toxic waste cleaning, clean water supply and punishment for convicts are pending in the Supreme Court, Madhya Pradesh High Court, and the Bhopal District Court, in which gas relief department is the party. It will be contempt of court to adhere to this recommendation.” Abdul Jabbar, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sanghatan (BGPMUS)
“It is said in the report recommending closure of the department that all the parties were consulted before taking this decision. It is a matter of shame that it was not considered necessary to talk to those people who would have the highest impact of this decision. How can the recommendation bypassing this fundamental principle be justified and logical? ” Balkrishna Namdev, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangh Morcha’s (BGPNPBSM)
“Due to the so-called shortage of funds, it is necessary to start the closed program like SPARC for the treatment and rehabilitation of the next generation children. Efforts should be made to monitor the groundwater pollution and to remove the toxic waste buried under the ground. The Supreme Court should hear the pending appeals petition in the Supreme Court so that the victims could get something from the issue of compensation pending from last 34 years. So many serious pending issues have not been resolved till now and the closure of the department is uncompromising to the government’s responsibility.” Nawab Khan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha (BGPMPSM).
“It is understandable that the closure of the department will only benefit Union Carbide and Dow Chemical and the loss will be to millions of victims. Gas Relief Minister should immediately clarify that his government is with the victims of Union Carbide poisonings or with American multinational companies. “ Safreen Khan, Children Against Dow-Carbide.
“Lacks of victims are still suffering from gynecological chronic diseases, there is a continuation of the famine deaths of thousands of gas victims and in view of unemployment and misery among the victims, Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department need not to stop but need to revive and it also needs to be ensured that this department does not become cash cow for ministers and officers instead provide relief to the gas victims and rehabilitate.” Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action.