Adequate Compensation for Bhopal Victims Demanded

No issue dies until justice is delivered. One such tragical issue is Bhopal disaster of 1984, in which case victims are yet to embrace justice even after the passage of three decades. An online petition, addressed to Chemicals & Fertilisers Minister Ananth Kumar, raises demand for adequate compensation for the victims. The petition is filed by Anushri Saxena from New Delhi. – Editor

Revise figures of death and extent of injuries caused by the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal. Move for Urgent hearing of the Curative Petition in the Supreme Court after this revision.

On the midnight of December 2-3, 1984, 40 tonnes of Methyl Isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide factory owned and operated by US multinational Union Carbide in Bhopal. Over half million residents were exposed to the highly poisonous clouds that settled in the older part of the city. In the last 30 years, over 25, 000 people have been killed as a result of their exposure to the poisonous gas and 150, 000 people are today battling chronic illnesses. Tens of thousands of children born after the disaster to gas exposed parents suffer birth defects and development disorders.

Following the disaster, the Government of India made the Bhopal Act to represent the victims of the disaster and demand compensation from Union Carbide. In line with its promise of securing the “best advantage of the claimants” the Indian government sought 3.3 billion dollars as compensation from Union Carbide. The government also set up a, rather flawed system of recording of disaster related deaths and injuries among the over half million people.

On February 14-15, 1989 the Supreme Court of India announced a settlement secretly reached between the Indian government and Union Carbide for 470 million dollars. This was seen as a sell out by the Bhopal survivors. The settlement amount, one seventh of the amount claimed, was too small for the victims to be adequately compensated.

The government had to tailor down the damage caused by Union Carbide to the money it had paid. Consequently, deaths attributable to the disaster were recorded only till 1997 and 93 % of those injured were categorised as only temporarily injured.

In June 2010, the Government of India acknowledged the injustice caused to the victims due to the paltriness of the settlement amount. Accordingly, it filed a Curative Petition in the Supreme Court of India claiming an additional amount of 1.2 billion dollars from Union Carbide Corporation and its current owner The Dow Chemical Company, USA.

Survivors’ organizations, who are co-petitioners in the matter before the Supreme Court, have pointed out that the government needs to revise the figures of injury and death. According to them, projection of the figures reported by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in its medical research in Bhopal brings the death toll closer to 25, 000 more than four times the figure of 5, 295 presented by the government.

The organizations have also pointed out that assigning the category of temporary injury to 93 % of the survivors was wrong because Union Carbide’s own document states that exposure to Methyl Isocyanate causes residual injury in spite of prompt treatment. Survivors’ organizations are asking the Government of India to revise the figures in the Curative petition based on ICMR’s research findings.

Survivors’ organizations are calling upon the government to ask for 8.1 billion dollars as additional compensation based on revised figures of death and injury so that the people of Bhopal can be adequately compensated.

We must be concerned with this because the Bhopal disaster is not an isolated occurrence. With the global rise and spread of the business of hazardous chemicals people all over the world are today actual or potential victims of corporate crime and industrial pollution such as those in Bhopal. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), diseases caused by industrial pollution are now among the five commonest causes of death worldwide. There are slow and silent Bhopals occurring all around us.

The people of Bhopal have been denied justice for last three decades. The settlement with Union Carbide has cost the corporation only 43 cents per share. If a corporation can get away with murder and maiming by paying a paltry amount it only serves to encourage other hazardous corporations to continue to be indifferent towards lives and health of ordinary people.

The demand for adequate compensation for Bhopal victims is a demand for justice for victims of corporate crime. If justice is done in Bhopal, corporations will be that much careful about putting profit before the lives and health of people. Justice in Bhopal is important for a safer future for us and our future generations.


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