Bhopal gas victims still gasping for breath

TIMES OF INDIA [MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2004 02:35:53 AM]

NEW DELHI: On a cold wintry night of December 2-3, 15,000 people were killed in Bhopal when 41 tonnes of Methyl Isocyanate, a poisonous gas leaked from one of the tanks of Union Carbide Corporation’s plant.

An initial survey on the after-effects of the gas leak done by The Journal of Post-Graduate Medicine reported 1,07,249 were disabled and 60,000 others were severely disabled in the incident.

Another survey done later by an NGO said over 20,000 people were killed and 1.20 lakh were left chronically ill.

Though Union Carbide authorities paid Rs 470 crore to the Indian government in 1989 as the final compensation, the Centre and Madhya Pradesh government are still defying their constitutional obligation of providing basic treatment to the victims of the ghastly tragedy.

Several children born after the tragedy still carry the legacy of the deadly cocktail.

Dr S Murlidhar, a noted lawyer who has been fighting for the victims confirmed that children born after the tragedy are suffering from chest and respiratory problems as well as deformities.

However, what has been more painful for the victims is the overall neglect of the victims. A whopping Rs 300 crore was spent on setting up an advanced hospital in Bhopal to treat the victims.

Costly equipment and ultra advanced gadgets were imported to help diagnose the ailments. The Indian Council of Medical Research started a project to investigate the after-effects of the MIC leak.

But the black Italian marble hospital with fountains on its pathway remain out of bounds for the victims because authorities demand proof that they are suffering from the MIC leak.

Medicines, which had crossed their expiry dates were put on the hospital’s shelves. This forced patients to buy the costly medicines from nearby private drug stores.

The Comptroller and Auditor General’s reports later revealed that too much money was spent on programmes started for the gas victims. It is never too late to do justice or do good.

A high-powered committee has now been set up under the aegis of the Supreme Court to enforce and regulate treatment of of victims, who have been gasping for breath for two decades.

With proper accountability of the aid programmes, it is still possible to provide medical assistance to the victims and check more deaths.

For more information about the medical situation in Bhopal and the work of the free Sambhavna Clinic, please visit our sister site bhopal.org

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