Bhopal’s gas-affected kids protest on Children’s Day

IANS, November 14, 2007
Bhopal’s gas-hit kids held a demonstration to demand social security pension for the families with birth defects, as the nation celebrated Children’s Day Wednesday.
Children whose health has been impaired due to poisonous gases that leaked from the Union Carbide’s pesticide plant on Dec 3, 1984, held a demonstration at the residence of the principal secretary of Bhopal Gas Tragedy, M.M. Upadhyaya to demand medical treatment and monthly pension of Rs.1,000 for the affected families.
The demonstration was held under the aegis of Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh and Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha, the organisations that have been fighting for the victims of the Bhopal gas disaster.
Children, including hundreds born with birth defects to gas exposed parents, lamented the failure of the state government to provide security to the victims.
‘The government was totally insensitive to our problems — both medical and economic. I had appealed to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for the treatment of my 12-year-old son, Jeet, suffering from congenital heart disease but to no avail,’ said Vinuta Lakhera, a gas victim from Kainchi Chhola — one of the worst gas-affected localities adjacent to the now defunct pesticide plant.
‘About 200 children suffering congenital deformities continue to be denied medical attention,’ said Rashida Bee of the Chingari Trust working for gas survivors.
‘Fourteen children had received official assistance for heart surgery and 13 assistance in diagnosis for congenital brain anomalies between 1992 and 1997, under the programme SPARC (Special Assistance to At Risk Children) but it was suddenly withdrawn in 1997 citing financial constraints.’
‘There are an unusually large number of children with cerebral palsy too in the communities affected by gas or contaminated groundwater,’ Rashida alleged, lamenting that between 1984 and 2000, the government spent a paltry sum of Rs.3,761 per year per child orphaned by the disaster.
And this despite the fact that an amount of Rs.497 million was allocated for social rehabilitation of victims of the disaster in 1986, she said. But the government was yet to spend the amount. There has been no expenditure by the government on social rehabilitation of gas victims for the last 13 years.
‘In addition to children with birth defects, thousands of widows and destitute victims are being denied social support pension. In the last 23 years, the official administration of rehabilitation of victims of Union Carbide has been riddled with corruption, apathy and incompetence,’ said Rachna Dhingra of the BGIA.
‘The chief minister has not fulfilled any of the promises made to the organisations after our month-long agitation this year and the principal secretary, Upadhyaya, has not followed up with any decision taken by the coordination committee on Bhopal set up after the prime minister’s directives last year,’ she said.

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