Bhopal gas disaster — survivors still demand compensation and justice

Night protest. Bhopali women hold flaming torches and two big banners.  The ground is decorated with coloured rice in writing or patterns.
Anniversary protest 2 December 2023. Photo thanks to Rachna Dhingra.

On this 39th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster, and always, since 1984:

We are with you, the women and community of Bhopal (India): demanding compensation, criminal justice, medical care, increased income to go to more survivors, meet housing needs, Dow Chemical to clean up the site.

Here is their press release, shared from the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.

“OUR DEMANDS ON THE 39TH ANNIVERSARY”

Demands of Survivors of Union Carbide Disaster & those poisoned by Dow Chemical in Bhopal on the 39th Anniversary of the disaster.

1. COMPENSATION

Union Carbide / Dow Chemical must pay:

  • Compensation for health damages, including congenital malformations, growth retardation and immune system damage in children of gas exposed parents.
  • Compensation for health damages due to contamination of soil and groundwater in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory site.

The Central and State governments must :

  • Sue Union Carbide and Dow Chemical to pay for damages to the children of gas exposed parents on the basis of hospital records and scientific studies.
  • Honour the 1991 settlement order of the Supreme Court by making up the shortfall in compensation by paying  Rs 5 lakhs [£4,731 approx] to each of the 5,21,232 gas victims for lifetime injuries and disabilities caused as a result of the gas disaster.
  • Pay ex gratia compensation of Rs 10 lakhs [£9,463 approx] to the remaining 9863 persons recognised as official deaths as a result of the gas disaster by the MP government as only 5479 deaths have received compensation for death.

2. CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Central and State governments must : 

  • Ensure that the prosecution agency, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sets up a special cell to expedite the criminal proceedings against the Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide India Limited and its executives so that harsher punishment is accorded to the guilty officials, well before the 40th anniversary of the disaster.
  • Ensure that CBI goes after Indian companies and PSU’s such as Gas Authority India Limited (GAIL), ONGC, Indian Oil Corporation, Gujarat Alkalies Chlorides Limited, Tamil Nadu Indian Additives Limited, Madhya Pradesh Vindhya Telelinks Ltd that continued to sell Union Carbide’s products even after they were barred from doing so by the CJM, Bhopal.
  • Ensure that  Prosecution seeks harshest measures against Dow Chemical, USA in case it refuses to submit to the jurisdiction of Bhopal court.

3. MEDICAL CARE & RESEARCH

The Central and State governments must :

  • Ensure setting up of the Empowered Commission on Bhopal with a corpus fund of Rs 1000 crore for  medical, social, economic and environmental rehabilitation of Bhopal survivors. This commission was approved by the central government in June 2008.
  • Register a cohort of individuals with chronic exposure to groundwater contaminated by Union carbide’s hazardous waste and initiate study of long term health impact including that on the next generation.
  • Carry out Community based study to find out why majority of gas affected people prefer going to unqualified medical practitioners than government hospitals and dispensaries.
  • Ensure use of standard treatment protocols for safe and effective medical care of the Bhopal survivors.
  • Ensure free medical care to residents chronically exposed to groundwater contaminated by hazardous waste from the Union Carbide factory.
  • Ensure that the hospitals meant for medical care of people poisoned by Union Carbide follow the recommendations made by the Monitoring Committee set up by the Supreme Court of India.
  • Ensure that NIREH (National Institute for Research on Environmental Health) sticks to its original mandate and resumes research on the long term health damages caused by exposure to toxic gas, health damages caused to the generation born after the disaster and the most effective means of ameliorating them.

4. ECONOMIC & SOCIAL REHABILITATION

The State government must :

  • Ensure immediate utilisation of funds allocated for generation of jobs for the survivors of the disaster and their children lying unutilised for the last 13 years.
  • Ensure that housing is provided to all residents living in communities affected by groundwater contamination whose dwellings were demolished in Jan 2023 by the district administration.
  • Ensure that the monthly pension of Rs. 1000/- per month paid to women widowed by the gas disaster is increased to Rs. 3000/- per month. 538 women officially acknowledged to have been widowed due to the disaster but wrongfully denied pension so far, must be included among the beneficiaries.
  • Develop a process of community based identification of survivors in need of social support and ensure access to such support without delay.

5. ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION

Dow Chemical must :

  • Accept the legal responsibility of cleaning up the area contaminated due to reckless dumping of hazardous waste by its current subsidiary, Union Carbide.
  • Ensure that the land in and around the Bhopal factory is cleaned up according to international standards and returned in its “original condition” as stipulated in the lease agreement with the state government.

The Indian Government must :

  • Claim compensation for environmental and health damages due to contamination of soil and groundwater in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory site.
  • Seek the assistance of the United Nations Environment Programme for comprehensive scientific assessment of the contamination of soil and groundwater in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory site.
  • Stop  Dow Chemical, USA from doing business in India till it cleans up and remediates the abandoned Union Carbide factory site and  pays compensation for health damages due to soil and groundwater contamination.

The State Government must :

  • Stop attempts to cover up the ongoing contamination of soil and groundwater by building a memorial to the disaster at the factory site.
  • Scrap its plan of incinerating Union Carbide’s 337 MT hazardous waste in Pithampur facility and recover the cost for its safe disposal as per international standards from Union Carbide and Dow Chemical.
  • Provide clean piped drinking water to all communities within 4.5 km from the abandoned Union Carbide site.
  • Secure the factory premises and the area of the Solar evaporation Ponds to ensure that people in the surrounding areas are not exposed to contaminants in the soil.
Rashida Bi,Nawab Khan & Nasreen Bee,Balkrishan Namdev,Rachna Dhingra,
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh 9425688215Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha 7441193309Bhopal Gas 9826345423Bhopal Group for Information and Action 9826167369
Read more:

Revealed 30 years on: secret role of Henry Kissinger in Bhopal tragedy

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