BJP rule worst time for gas tragedy victims

LS Herdenia

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hirty-four years after the world’s worst industrial disaster, survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy continue to demand proper rehabilitation and adequate compensation besides proper medical treatment for ailments caused by the toxic leak.

Fifteen years of the BJP government has been the worst period for the Bhopal gas victims. Not only state government, the Modi government at the Centre also adapted an indifferent attitude towards the suffering of gas victims.

Addressing a press conference on the eve of anniversary of the gas tragedy, leaders of four survivors’ organisations said that the Indian government was protecting the criminal corporations with renewed zeal ever since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister. They said Modi’s special relationship with Dow Chemical, Union Carbide’s owner, is known since he was chief minister of Gujarat, where Dow tried to set up a joint venture with Gujarat Chemicals and Alkalis in 2008. As Prime Minister, Modi is known to have invited Dow Chemical’s CEO to a special dinner and photo-op during one of his visits to the US in 2015.

No new initiative was taken by the state government since BJP came to power in 2003. Far from doing so, the state government remained a mute observer to the near collapse of all the institutions built during the Congress rule, especially when Motilal Vora was chief minister from 1985 to 1988.

According to Ananya Pratap Singh of Zahreeli Gas Kand Sangharsh Morcha, even after 34 years, there is no improvement in the conditions of the survivors. Since 2004, the contamination has spread to 42 settlements around the factory with a population of over one hundred thousand. But, the governments at the state and Centre have done nothing.

Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha activist Balkrishman Namdeo said that at a time when the government was spending huge amounts on recreational events, many widows of gas victims were waiting to get their pensions. Namdeo alleged that despite assurances by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan last year, applications for pension of 600 widows are still pending.

Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action cited recent scientific studies showing that deaths and diseases attributable to exposure to Union Carbide’s gases continue to occur in Bhopal. Yet, over 80% of the recommendations of the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee for medical rehabilitation of victims remain to be implemented. Further, funds meant for providing employment to survivors and their children are being diverted for building roads, drains and parks by a minister for his electoral constituency, she alleged.

Claiming that about 20,000 persons died due to the gas tragedy and its after effects, convener of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sanghathan (BGPMUS) Abdul Jabbar said compensation provided in most instances was a pittance.

A section of gas victims, termed the presence of Bollywood actors Karina Kapoor and Tiger Shroff in “Run Bhopal Run” event on December 2 as an insult to survivors. Gradually the government is shutting down the hospitals, and the departments created to deal with the tragedy.

Multiple events were held in city on the eve of the 34th anniversary of Bhopal gas tragedy on Sunday. Candle light vigils and torch rallies were organised by different NGOs working for the survivors at Yadgar-e-Shahjehani Park as well as before the abandoned Union Carbide Factory.

All faith prayer meeting was held to pay homage to victims at Barkatullah Bhawan, which was attended by the representatives of the state government, including the department of health and family welfare and Bhopal gas relief and rehabilitation department.

(The writer is a senior journalist)