Gas victims demand representative panel

MAY 14, 2006
Bhopal • The victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy yesterday condemned the composition of a co-ordination committee on Bhopal, which they say is dominated by government officials and a former medical advisor to the Union Carbide Corporation.
The committee had been constituted by the Central government after several organisations of the tragedy’s survivors set off on a 900km march in early April from the now-defunct Union Carbide pesticide plant here to Delhi, demanding the Prime Minister’s intervention in ensuring “justice and a life of dignity for themselves and their ilk”. The Prime Minister conceded to their demands, including the formation of the committee, on April 17 after he met the representatives of the organisations.
The committee is to plan and implement schemes for medical, economic and social rehabilitation of the people poisoned by the toxic gas that spewed out of the plant on the morning of December 3, 1984, killing 3,000 people instantly and maiming several thousands for life.
A total of 15,000 people have died so far. Leaders of the organisations, including Rachna Dhingra and Satinath Shadangi, condemned the failure of the government to include their representatives in the committee.
“It is a travesty that none of their representatives have yet been incorporated into the co-ordination committee,” Rachna said at a press conference. She added that they have written to the Prime Minister requesting his personal intervention to ensure a more balanced committee that includes their representatives.
They also protested against the inclusion of N P Mishra, former medical advisor to Union Carbide, in the committee. “Dr Mishra is responsible for thousands of preventable deaths because of his opposition to the administration of sodium thiosulphate to the survivors in the aftermath of the disaster,” Rachna stated.
According to Shadangi, many lives could have been saved if gas-affected people had received this injection in time. Administration of sodium thiosulphate is considered helpful in detoxifying the body. He also pointed out that contrary to Union Carbide’s position that the toxic gases damaged only lungs and eyes, the poison had actually entered the blood stream and caused damage to almost every organ in the body.

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