Unlicensed moneylenders in Bhopal have begun charging interest rates of up to 150% in anticipation of a payout amounting to Rs 1,503 crores (€266 million, £180 million, US$324 million) to more 560,000 surviving victims of the Union Carbide gas disaster. The survivors are also likely to be targetted by corrupt officials. Many of the gas victims are unschooled people, not able to read or write, unfamiliar with legalese and the demands of bureaucracy. They are easy prey for unscrupulus officials.
For these reasons leaders of survivors’ organisations today welcomed the proposals of the Welfare Commissioner relating to the distribution of the compensation fund. A delegation of the leaders met the Collector in the city and presented 10 suggestions which they said would help set up a corruption-free, transparent, simple and rapid system of distribution the money.
The leaders suggested that survivors’ organisations should form a Monitoring Committee that would have the right to oversee the registration and claims process, and resolve complaints of corruption, misbehaviour or incompetence against officials. They also urged that procedures for obtaining copies of necessary documents, which for all sorts of reasons may are unavailable to claimants, must be spelt out clearly.
During their discussion with the Collector, the delegation of Rashida Bee, Champa Devi Shukla, Shahid Noor and others emphasised the need for a system of registration and resolution of complaints against employees at the Claim courts and banks and demanded action against the money-lenders and loan sharks. The delegation suggested that names and photos of local touts be published in the claims court, so claimants can recognise and avoid them.
The leaders were satisfied with the arrangement of reserving Saturdays exclusively for people who could not come to the Claim court on the scheduled day of their hearing. They also welcomed the plans for employing people at every ward to answer queries, particularly from non-literate people.
Rashida Bi, Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Shahid Noor, Bhopal ki Aawaaz
Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action