There is focus on “Swachh Bharat” campaign; What about problems of Bhopal gas victims
Bhopal: Two leading not-for-profit organisations working for the cause of the victims of the Union Carbide Gas disaster in Bhopal on the midnight of December 1984 that left in its wake thousands dead and hundreds of thousand gravely affected have in a letter to the Prime Minister have drawn Pirme Minister Narendra Modi’s attention to the numerous problems the gas victims are continuing to face even 33 years after the worst man-made tragedy.
In a jointly signed letter, Abdul Jabbar Khan, Convener, Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghathan (BGPMUS), and N.D.Jayaprakash, Co-Convener, Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti (BGPSSS), have even gone to the extent of telling the Prime Minister that to the best of their knowledge, since assuming office as Prime Minister in 2014, he has never ever tried to focus attention on the problems of the gas victims varied problems confronting the victims of the worst industrial disaster.
While underscoring that although the Prime Minister has tried to highlight the need for energizing the “Swatch Bharat” campaign, it is, indeed, inexplicable as to why the issue of the urgent need for cleaning up the highly toxic spots in an around the former pesticide factory of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) at Bhopal, is not a vital part of that campaign till date.
The Prime Minister has been urged to direct the concerned officials to take requisite steps to remediate the polluted environment (including 1,10,000 tons of contaminated soil alone) by seeking necessary technical help from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The cost for the cleanup should be recovered from the Dow Chemical Company, the present owners of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), which was responsible for setting up UCIL in 1969 and managing it until 1984.
The two NGOs have hailed the decision taken by the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) to formally merge the Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre (BMHRC) with the All India Institute of Medical Research (AIIMS), Bhopal. While pointing out that this decision has come after much delay, it has also been observed that it would help in augmenting the health needs of the gas-victims. Further the Prime Minister has been told that the decision to merge BMHRC and AIIMS has not been ratified by the Union Cabinet.
The PM has also been requested to direct the State Government to upgrade its health delivery system to meet the needs of the gas-victims.
It has also been underscored that the Government has not made any attempt to request the Supreme Court of India to speedily depose Curative Petition (Civil) Nos.345-347 of 2010 although the matter has been pending before the Court for the last seven years. The hearing in this matter has to be expedited so that higher compensation is awarded to the needy victims at the earliest as was sought by the Union of India but after revising the figure of dead and injured as urged by the two NGOs in their Interlocutory Application on 24 October 2013 & through their affidavit on 7 September 2015.
The Bhopal gas disaster Act is specific in pointing out that if compensation is insufficient, Government of India will rectify the amount. If the Supreme Court feels the compensation is less, Government of India would be bound by the order of the Supreme Court.
Another serious matter brought to the PM’s notice is that the criminal cases against the absconding accused in the Bhopal gas leak disaster are proceeding at a snail’s space. Hardly any attempt is being made to seek the extradition of Accused No.10, UCC and its present owner, the Dow Chemical Company, to stand trial. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) should be directed to take a more pro-active stand to support the CBI in this regard. Enhancing charges against Accused Nos.2 to 9 from Section 304-A to Section 304 Part-II is another matter that the Government of India has to give due consideration, it has been pointed out.