Bhopal gas tragedy survivors are on a campaign to collect one lakh signatures on a memorandum of demand that calls upon the Madhya Pradesh and the central government to present true data of deaths and permanent injuries owing to the disaster in the Supreme Court so that survivors could get adequate additional compensation.
“Five organizations of the survivors are conducting the campaign and hope to hand in the signed memorandum to the prime minister and the MP chief minister before the next date of hearing of the curative petition in the Supreme Court on October 11,” Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group of Information and Action (BGIA), one of the organizations, told The Week.
The organizations have also condemned the Indian government for failing to prepare for the curative petition hearing that began in the Supreme Court on September 20, more than 11 years after it was filed. They demanded that the government use the three weeks till the next hearing to ensure that the actual damage caused by the disaster is factually represented before the five-judge bench.
“The Solicitor General informed the five-member bench in SC on September 20 that he is still waiting for instructions from the government,” the organizations said. “In the 11 years since the petition was submitted, no Indian government has yet filed a single additional argument to protect the legal rights of half a million Bhopal survivors,” they said.
“We hope that the government uses the time till October 11, the next hearing date, to correct the figures of death and extent of injury caused by the disaster so that the judges are not misled about the actual damage caused by the disaster,” they said in a statement.
The organisations have claimed—citing scientific and government documents and statements—that the number of deaths due to the gas tragedy of 1984 is more than 23,000 and not 5,295 as mentioned in the curative petition by the government.
They also cited scientific reports to claim that the majority of the 5.69 lakh affected persons sustained permanent injuries as a result of exposure to the deadly methyl isocyanate (MiC) gas, debunking the figures cited by the government that 5.21 lakh (93 per cent) sustained only temporary injuries.
They have said that in view of the higher figures of death and injuries, additional compensation of Rs 646 billion should be sought from the US corporations responsible for the tragedy and not Rs 96 billion as sought by the Union government.
The organizations said that they were co-petitioners in this matter with the Indian government and despite meagre resources, their lawyer was present in the court on September 20, prepared with facts and arguments for compensation of 646 billion rupees from Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. ”What is stopping the government from providing timely instructions to its lawyer,” they asked.
Among the representatives of survivors’ organizations who issued the statement, are Rashida Bee, Goldman Environmental Prize awardee and president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Balkrishna Namdeo of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha and Nousheen Khan of Children Against Dow-Carbide.