Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karamachari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
At a press conference in New Delhi today, parents of five children with congenital birth defects from Bhopal presented their case of criminal negligence of the Indian government towards the next generation of victims of Union Carbide’s poisons. One of the parents was exposed to Methyl Isocyanate and other gases during the 1984 disaster, two are exposed to both toxic gases and poisonous chemicals and heavy metals like mercury in their drinking water from the community hand pumps. Two parents were exposed to both toxic gases and contaminated water. The parents and their children who addressed the press conference today are part of the 30-day long dharna at Jantar Mantar by three Bhopal based survivors organizations. They will accompany a team to get endorsements from Members of Parliament on a draft parliamentary bill for an “Empowered Commission on Bhopal Act, 2008”.
The parents said that the central government was fully aware as early as 1990, through a prematurely aborted three year study carried out by the Indian Council of Medical Research, that children of gas affected parents suffered from congenital physical and mental growth disorders. The state government on its part provided official assistance for heart surgery and congenital brain anomalies to a mere 27 children under a program called SPARC (Special Assistance to At Risk Children). However, that was terminated in 1997 citing financial constraints. The parents of three children born with brain damage, mental retardation and cleft lip & palette said that the central government continues to disregard a Supreme Court order of 1991 that directed medical insurance for at least 100,000 children born to gas exposed parents. The central government is yet to provide medical insurance coverage to a single member of the “generation next” of Bhopal victims, said the parents.
Parents of two children born with brain damage and congenitally malformed eye possibly linked to ground water contamination said that they and their children are denied free health care at the hospitals meant for care of the gas affected. This is despite a 2006 report of the state government’s Centre for Rehabilitation Studies on multi-systemic injuries caused by contaminated ground water.
Two of the parents who were exposed to the gas leak in 1984 are being exposed to contaminants in their drinking water since they settled themselves close to the factory after it was abandoned. They said that they and their children do qualify for free treatment at the government hospitals. However, there are no facilities for detection, treatment and rehabilitation of children born with congenital disorders in the health care system, they said.
As early as 1996, quarterly monitoring reports of the state Pollution Control Board, confirmed that the water in the community hand pumps contained toxic chemicals and heavy metals in high concentrations. In 2004, the Supreme Court of India directed the government to provide clean drinking water to the 25, 000 residents of communities in the neighbourhood of the abandoned pesticide factory. In April 2006 the Prime Minister had promised action on supply of piped water to this population. However, not a drop of clean water has been made available, the children’s parents said. If and when the project is completed under the JNURM scheme, it would only provide water to those who can pay “user fees”. The parents said that many families in these communities are hardly able to make their ends meet and would not be able to pay user fees for drinking water.
The parents of the five children, all of whom work for low wages, said that the central government was also callous towards their pleas for monthly assistance of Rs. 1000/- for the special needs of children born with congenital deformities. They said that the Rs. 150/- per month assistance given by the state government was too meagre to even pay for the costs of transporting the children for medical check ups.
The parents demanded that the central government wake up to the plight of the tens of thousands of children of parents who have suffered chemical exposure through gas and water in Bhopal. In addition to special medical assistance, community based rehabilitation centres and monetary assistance, they called for research and monitoring programs to assess the magnitude of the problem and for early detection of such defects.
A list of groundwater contaminants found in Bhopal and linked to birth defects and developmental problems
Information on the five children from Bhopal present at today’s press conference
For More Information Contact:
Nityanand Jayaraman: 9717516003
Rachna Dhingra: 9717516005
S-3, Tulsi Towers, Patel Nagar, Behind Sangam Cinema, Bhopal, MP-462001