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37 Hard-hitting Questions 37 Years After Bhopal Gas Tragedy

Four NGOs will remind the Centre and state of the unfulfilled promises made to the survivors in a 37-day campaign.

Bhopal: Ahead of the 37th anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, a campaign called ‘Bhopal Disaster: 37 years: 37 questions’ was launched in Madhya Pradesh’s capital on Tuesday to remind the Centre and the state government of the unfulfilled promises made to the survivors over the last several years. 

During their 37-day campaign, four NGOs fighting for the survivors would highlight urgent concerns regarding compensation, criminal justice, medical, economic and social rehabilitation and environmental remediation of polluted lands that need to be addressed immediately.

“Starting from today, the survivors of the disaster will ask 37 questions, one every day, for the 37 years since the disaster occurred,” Rashida Bi, president, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, told reports at a press conference in Bhopal.

“While both the Central as well as the state governments agreed in 2010 that the American corporation had to pay additional compensation, neither has filed an application for urgent hearing of the curative petition pending before the Supreme Court even after a decade. We want to know why the governments didn’t file any application in the last 11 years?”, Bi added.

Starting from Tuesday, the NGOs shot off their first question regarding the number of casualties in the disaster: “The Madhya Pradesh government offers widow pension to 5,000 women whose husbands died in the gas tragedy. But the official death toll quoted by the state government in the Supreme Court was 5,295. Is the government suggesting that only 295 children, women and unmarried men died in the disaster?”

The NGOs released the question in a four-page-long graphics format quoting the state government toll mentioned in apex court petition. Demanding a reply from the government, Bi said, “Even 37 years after the tragedy, the Union and the state governments are still clueless about the number of deaths. The current official data is massively underreported.”

During the press conference, the NGOs pointed out that in the last seven years of the Narendra Modi regime, US-based Dow Chemical, the present owner of Union Carbide—which was responsible for the tragedy—has grown dramatically in India. In these seven years, the company has ignored six summons issued by the Bhopal District Court to appear in the criminal case. “One of our questions would be how can the Indian government allow a company that does not obey the law of the land to do business in the country?” Bi said.

Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action questioned the Central and the state government’s competence and integrity in addressing the medical care and rehabilitation of the survivors. “Despite the passage of 37 years, the survivors continue to be administered symptomatic drugs that provide only temporary relief if at all. We will ask such basic questions, like ‘Why there are no treatment protocols for the exposure-related chronic illnesses even now?’”

Activist Nousheen Khan of Children Against Dow Carbide said, “We will ask questions on the ongoing contamination and remediation of the land in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory. Despite being entitled by laws in India and the USA to seek compensation from Dow Chemical for the polluted land, why has the MP Government never filed a claim against the corporation?”

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