16th Anniversary of the December 2-3, 1984
Union Carbide Disaster in Bhopal
Fact Sheet for Journalists

OVER 20,000 DEAD AND COUNTING

Over 120,000 STILL IN DESPERATE NEED OF MEDICAL ATTENTION

TENS OF 1000s OF CHILDREN WITH GROWTH PROBLEMS

50,000 IN NEED OF ECONOMIC REHABILITATION

1000s IN NEED OF SOCIAL SECURITY

5000 FAMILIES DRINKING POISONED WATER

Bhopal Group for Information and Action Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan
B-2 / 302, Sheetal Nagar 51, Rajendra Nagar
Berasia Road Bhopal 462010
Bhopal 462018
Tel : c/o 91-755-730914 91-755-242727

STOP PRESS STOP PRESS STOP PRESS STOP PRESS STOP

ON DECEMBER 1, 2000, THE CHIEF MINISTER MR. DIGVIJAY SINGH ANNOUNCED AT A "MEET THE PRESS" MEETING THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF GAS RELIEF HAS OUTLIVED ITS UTILITY, SINCE THE "CITY'S RESIDENTS ARE NO LONGER SUFFERING FROM THE AFTER EFFECTS OF THE BHOPAL GAS DISASTER".

If you think otherwise, please let him know : Mr. Digvijay Singh
Chief Minister
State of Madhya Pradesh
Mantralaya
Ballabh Bhavan
Bhopal

Tel: 755-551433 / 551396 / 551581
Email : cm@mpchiefminister.com

1. The current health situation in Bhopal
2. The current situation of medical care
3. Study of prescriptions issued by the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust
4. Data from a severely affected community
5. Report of Indian Council of Medical Research yet to be published
6. Issues of concern in the medical care of Bhopal survivors
7. Good news from Bhopal: The Sambhavna Clinic
8. Legal action in the US courts
9. Criminal case against Union Carbide
10. Union Carbide's merger with Dow Chemicals
11. Union Carbide back in India in a new guise
12. Latest compensation figures
13. Denial of compensation
14. Balance of the compensation fund
!5. A murky business
16. Good news from Bhopal: Workers victorious against Union Carbide
17. Very poor show
18. No support to widows and orphans
19. CAG's damning indictment against the MP government
20. Good news from Bhopal: The struggle continues

December 2-3 1984

At about 10.30 pm during routine maintenance operations in the methyl isocyanate (MIC) plant of Union Carbide Corporation in Bhopal, a large quantity of water entered one of the storage tanks through leaking valves and corroded pipes triggering a runaway reaction in tank no. E–610 containing 60 tonnes of MIC – a lethal chemical with a TLV of 0.02ppm. The reaction produced enormous heat and pressure and 40 tonnes of a deadly cocktail of MIC, hydrogen cyanide, mono methylamine, carbon monoxide and possibly 20 other chemicals spewed forth in the form of dense clouds. Safety systems (that, in the first place, were grossly under-designed to take care of a runaway reaction) were either switched off, malfunctioning or under repair. A cold and gentle northerly wind carried the clouds over half a million sleeping people. The poison cloud moved like a wall 20 to 30 feet high hugging the ground. By one in the morning an entire city had been turned in to gas chamber.

The siren at the factory had been deliberately turned off so that people came to know of the leak from the factory only after the poison clouds had surrounded them. They woke up coughing, gasping for breath with their eyes burning like they were on fire. People ran, entire families, holding babies in their arms with little children running alongside. The force of the human torrent of a city trying to escape wrenched childrens' hands from their parents. People lost control of their bodies. Urine and faeces ran down their legs. Some began vomiting uncontrollably, were wracked with seizures and fell dead. The gases irritated people’s lungs into producing so much fluid that their lungs were filled with it, 'drowning them in their own body fluids.

Doctors at Bhopal’s hospitals, besieged by dying people, did not know how to treat them. They called Union Carbide’s medical officer who said that the gas was akin to tear gas. "All you need to do is wash with water" he said. Meanwhile, the hospital mortuary was overflowing. Graveyards and cremation grounds were unable to cope with the flow and for the next three nights and days mass burials and cremations went on non-stop in different parts of the city. The number of casualties in the immediate aftermath will possibly never be known with certainty but the most conservative estimates by independent agencies suggest that over 8000 men, women and children were killed within the first three days. The Indian Council of Medical Research, a government agency, concluded that over 5,20,000 exposed persons had poisons circulating in their bloodstream that caused damage to almost all the systems in the body.

1. The current health situation in Bhopal
Well over 1,20,000 chronically ill survivors are today in desperate need of medical attention and an estimated 10 to 15 people are dying every month from exposure-related illnesses. Breathlessness, persistent cough, diminished vision, early age cataracts, loss of appetite, menstrual irregularities, recurrent fever, neurological disorders, fatigue, weakness, anxiety and depression are the most common symptoms among survivors. Union Carbide continues to withhold information on the composition of the leaked gases and their effects on the body. The Corporation claims these are 'trade secrets'.

While people continue to die of exposure-related diseases, the official agency for monitoring deaths remains closed and has been since 1992. In addition to the host of physical and mental illnesses that have gripped people and never left them, there are new diseases that are manifesting after so many years. Yet official initiatives to monitor longterm health consequences are either terribly flawed or non-existent. The monitoring work by the Centre for Rehabilitation Studies (CRS), set up by the Madhya Pradesh Government has done little other than draw ridicule and contempt for its abysmal quality. Meanwhile, the number of people with cancers and tuberculosis is alarmingly high and rising. Young women who were exposed at infancy, have chaotic and painful menstrual cycles on attaining puberty. Many have three to four cycles in a month and there are those as old as 17 or 18 who have yet to have their periods. Young people between 15 to 18 years look like they are 10 or 11 because of exposure-induced growth problems documented by ICMR.

2. The current situation of medical care
In the absence of information, doctors in Bhopal still do not know the proper treatment of exposure-related illnesses. There are only two official publications that resemble a treatment protocol. The most recent by the ICMR is 11 years old and covers little except management of respiratory problems. The existence of this document, let alone familiarity with its contents, is unknown in the medical community involved with the medical care of the victims. It is officially acknowledged that the exposure-related injuries are multi-systemic with survivors presenting a complex of symptoms involving several organs. However, the prevalent line of medical treatment in Bhopal continues to be oriented to management of individual symptoms.

The best of treatments provide only temporary relief, if at all. Indiscriminate prescription of steroids, antibiotics and psychotropic drugs is potentially compounding damage caused by exposure. Government initiatives towards proper identification of victims have resulted in confusion, corruption and utter discrimination. As a result there are no credible official figures for the number of victims and the degree and extent of injuries. Similarly lacking are systems to document the health status and treatment given to hundreds of thousands of victims under longterm medical care.

It is paradoxical that while huge amounts of money have been spent by the medical care establishments [over Rs. 200 crores by the government and over Rs. 100 crores by the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust, basic medicines of reliable quality remain largely unavailable to patients. Hospitals and clinics run by these establishments have an impressive array of the most expensive equipment. Very few are, however, are being used. Most are malfunctioning or under repair and some have no trained personnel to run them. Facilities for simple gynaecological investigations such as Pap's smears or neurological problems are non-existent.

The inadequacies of the government health care system has led to a flourishing business for private medical practitioners. In the severely affected areas nearly 70% of the private doctors are not even professionally qualified, yet they form the mainstay of medical care in Bhopal. The Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust set up originally by Union Carbide is as much in the dark regarding treatment. Many of the drugs being used by the Trust’s community clinics are causing more harm than good to the chronic patients.

3. Study of prescriptions issued by the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust
In July 2000, Dr. Atanu Sarkar [MBBS, MCH, Doctoral Fellow, UNU-New Delhi] studied prescriptions issued to 101 persons registered for care at the BMHT's Community Clinic No. 1 at Kainchi Chhola. Data on the medicines prescribed and other prescription details in a total of 380 visits made by these persons were collected. Dr. Sarkar found that:

  • On 66.3 % of the prescriptions, there was no or incomplete description of symptoms.
  • There were several prescriptions where harmful drugs have been prescribed without any basis in standard pharmacology text. Like Corex cough suppressants containing opium derivative, alprazolam as anxiolytic, benzodiazepine as anxiolytic, or combination of Corex and alprazolam, or single drug anti-TB therapy, overdose of anti helminthic and so on. Combination of Corex and anxiolytic may cause serious effects on the brain resulting in disorientation drowsiness etc. Overdose of anti-helminthic may cause abdominal discomfort. Single TB dose results resistant bacteria.
  • 26.3% of the drugs prescribed were harmful, 48.5% of drugs were useless according to standard text book of pharmacology and 7.6% of drugs prescribed were both harmful and useless.
  • In 45.3 % cases drugs have been prescribed in doses not supported by a standard textbook on pharmacology.

4. Data from a severely affected community
According to a house to house survey carried out by the Community Health Workers of the Sambhavna Trust : There are 619 families in Kainchi Chhola with a total population of 4972 [1596 female, 1683 male and 1693 under 16 years]. Among those under 16 years, 805 have been born to parents both of whom have history of exposure, 175 have been born to parents where the mother has a history of exposure and 197 have been born to parents where the father has a history of exposure. Thus there are 1677 residents born after the disaster who may have been affected indirectly due to their parent's exposure. The total number of current residents of Kainchi Chhola who have no history of exposure [immigrants from non-exposed areas and their children and residents who were away on the night of the disaster] is 1939 [1423 adults and 516 children under 16 years].

The five most common symptoms reported by victims of the disaster are : Breathlessness, burning sensation in the eyes and lacrimation, loss of ability to work, cough and anxiety. The five most common symptoms reported by non-affected residents are : headache, abdominal pain, dizziness, cough and lower back ache. 44 deaths in gas affected families have been reported in this community since January 1993.

Among the 1856 adults [age greater than 16 years] with history of gas exposure 1676 [90%] were found to be under medical care at the time of the survey. Among the 1423 persons without history of exposure 455 [32%] were found to be under medical care at the time of the survey.

5. Report of Indian Council of Medical Research yet to be published
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR ) carried out 24 research projects that documented respiratory, ocular, reproductive, neurological, immunological, gastro-intestinal, muscular, genetic and psychological damages caused by Union Carbide’s gases. For reasons not stated, research on gynaecological, musculoskeletal, renal, and endocrinal consequences of exposure to Union Carbide's gases were never taken up by official agencies.

To carry out its work the ICMR set up the Bhopal Gas Disaster Research Centre [BGDRC] in Bhopal. The ICMR wound up 5 of its projects by 1986 and an additional 14 were wound up by 1992. In 1994 the ICMR suddenly and without any explanation, decided to abandon all medical research in Bhopal. At the time of its winding up, there were 18 project proposals before the BGDRC pending approval, several of these had been reviewed by the review committee.

The never explained ban on publication of medical research on Bhopal imposed by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, Government of India, was finally lifted in 1996. However, to date there has been no report on the findings of ICMR's decade-long research.

Over 80,000 exposed persons and over 20,000 unexposed persons who were involved in the studies, many of whom gave samples of their blood, sputum, urine, semen etc. remain to be informed about the findings of ICMR research.

6. Issues of concern in the medical care of Bhopal survivors
A. Critical gaps in information :

  1. Number of gas victims
  2. Number of deaths attributable to exposure
  3. Number of children born with congenital defects
  4. Number of gas victims with different illnesses
  5. Number of gas victims with chronic and acute illnesses
  6. Number of gas victims partially or totally disabled
  7. Number of gas victims rendered destitute due to death or sickness of breadwinner in family
  8. Different therapeutic interventions used on gas victims
  9. Different health care providers
  10. Effect of different therapeutic interventions
  11. Results of pathological or diagnostic investigations
  12. Updated treatment protocol
  13. Number of gas victims who have had full health recovery through treatment
  14. Number of gas victims with infectious diseases such as TB and results of anti TB treatment
  15. Incidence and prevalence of cancer

B. Urgent research needs that remain unfulfilled :

  1. Longterm epidemiological study
  2. Epidemiological monitoring of long term sequelae of pulmonary diseases
  3. Cancer prevalence
  4. Causes of death
  5. Prevalence of tuberculosis including multi-drug resistant TB
  6. Neglected areas of clinical research ;
    1. Gynaecological
    2. Endocrinological
    3. Cardiovascular
    4. Neurological
    5. Psychiatric
    6. Reproductive
    7. Longterm sequelae of pulmonary, gastrointestinal and other diseases
  1. Monitoring of children born to gas exposed parents for congenital abnormalities
  2. Evaluation of different therapeutic approaches
  3. Drug utilisation
  4. Development of treatment protocol
  5. Assessment of contamination of water and soil
  6. Health and environmental impact of contamination of groundwater and soil

C. Neglected health care imperatives :

    1. Medical follow-up book
    2. System of registration for monitoring therapy
    3. Assessment of injuries compounded by harmful medication
    4. Development of community based health care
    5. Inclusion of herbal and drug-free therapies like Yoga
    6. Continuous updating of treatment protocol
    7. Physical rehabilitation of persons with partial or total disability
    8. Health education and counseling
    9. Provision of safe drinking water, clean air and healthy environment
  1. Organisational changes required :
    1. Creation of stable and unified authority for longterm relief, rehabilitation, monitoring and research
    2. Provision of adequate funds for rehabilitation and monitoring at least for the next 50 years.
    3. Autonomy, integration, participation of survivors at all stages and competent personnel
    4. Public accountability

7. Good news from Bhopal : The Sambhavna Clinic
A small clinic set up by the Sambhavna Trust near the severely affected communities provides free medical care through modern medicine, Ayurveda and Yoga with encouraging results. The work of the Sambhavna Clinic has so far been supported solely by donations from over 6000 individuals in India, Japan, the UK and the USA. In addition to care at the clinic, 20 staff members including four physicians carry out community health work, monitoring exposure-related deaths, research studies on effective therapy and monitoring of the longterm consequences of the disaster. Close to 10,000 survivors have been registered for care at the Sambhavna Clinic in the last four years with remarkable and sustained improvement.

Research carried out on objective assessment of Yoga therapy in the treatment of exposure-related chronic respiratory disorders at Sambhavna has yielded encouraging results. Half the persons in the study, which received appreciation at the XVI World congress of Asthma at Buenos Aires in October 1999, were able to discontinue medication they have been dependent for upon for over 10 years. Copies of the research paper were sent by the two researchers to senior officials of the Department of Gas Relief and Rehabilitation as well as the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust, in March 2000. While a reminder one month later elicited a discouraging response from the government, the BMHT is yet to respond.

Community health workers of Sambhavna have successfully organised survivors' communities to take initiative in the improvement of community health. 64 Ayurvedic medicines are prepared at the clinic itself from locally collected or purchased herbs.

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Justice

8. Legal action in the US courts
Seven individuals and five organisations, [three survivors' and two solidarity organisations] filed a class action suit on November 15, 1999 in the Federal District Court of New York against Union Carbide Corporation and its former Chairman Warren Anderson. The suit charged the Corporation and the official with grave violations of international law and human rights arising from their 'reckless and depraved indifference to human life' in perpetrating the disaster. In the context of Union Carbide and Anderson absconding justice in Indian courts, the suit invoked the Alien Tort Claims Act, a US law that permits foreigners to bring claims against a US private company committing gross violations of human rights. The case is being represented by the New York-based law firm Goodkind, Labaton, Rudoff and Sucharow reputed for their success in cases of large public interest. Within few months of initiating this legal action the following were achieved :

  1. For the first time the US courts and international press had to realize that Union Carbide and Anderson are indeed absconding from the criminal case in India instituted by the Government of India.
  2. Mr. Anderson, a proclaimed absconder for the last eight years, submitted himself to the US judicial process on March 8, 2000 after evading process servers at his three registered addresses since November 21, 1999.
  3. Union Carbide’s continuing refusal to provide any scientific information on the leaked gases has also been presented to the US courts and world press for the first time.
  4. The issue of the ongoing toxic exposure from contamination of soil and water around the factory site has been raised as separate grounds for damages and relief of an environmental clean-up.

On August 28, 2000 Judge Mr. John F. Keenan of the Federal Court of the Southern District of New York dismissed the suit mainly on the grounds that the Bhopal Act [Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985] prevented individuals or organizations outside the Government of India from bringing an action against Union Carbide or its official. Quite clearly this interpretation of the Bhopal Act is incorrect as a matter of law based on the Indian Supreme Court's authoritative interpretation of the Act. Further it is contrary to international law as well as the public policy of the United States and India.

In view of the travesty of justice in the wrongful dismissal of the case an appeal was filed before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Survivors and solidarity organisations have sought the support of the Indian government in the US class action suit. They have demanded an Amicus curae brief from the Union of India that presents the facts relating to the Bhopal Act. As per the court's schedule the appellant's brief must be filed by December 20, 2000 and that of Union Carbide and Anderson by January 19, 2001. Oral argument on the appeal will be heard on March 5, 2001.

9. Criminal case against Union Carbide
A First Information Report for causing death by negligence and a number of other serious offences was registered on December 3, 1984 at the local police station. On December 1, 1987 the government's prosecution agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) pressed charges in the Bhopal District Court against UCC and its Asian and Indian subsidiaries, namely Union Carbide Eastern (UCE), Hong Kong and Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) respectively, as well as nine officials including the then Chairman, Warren Anderson. The 12 accused were charged under section 304 (Part 11) 326, 324 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code with culpable homicide causing death of and poisoning animals and other serious offences punishable by imprisonment up to 10 years and fines. The corporation blamed a fictitious saboteur and later a disgruntled worker for causing the disaster and organised public relations campaign to distance itself from criminal liability. The CBI, with the cooperation of the workers of the factory, presented a strong case linking key managerial decisions to the disaster.

As the proceedings in the Bhopal District Court began in the aftermath of the disaster, Union Carbide and its officials repeatedly chose to ignore the Court's summons. Finally Anderson was served summons through Interpol and on his repeated refusal to obey them, the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Bhopal proclaimed him an absconder. After the criminal immunity granted under the settlement was revoked by the October 1991 final judgement of the Supreme Court, a non-bailable arrest warrant was issued against Anderson and the shares of Union Carbide in its Indian subsidiary were attached by the CJM, Bhopal. More than seven years have passed but the Indian government has yet to take steps towards seeking the extradition of the foreign accused. Since Union Carbide has de-registered UCE, Hong Kong in 1992, the CBI has expressed, its inability in Court to proceed against it.

On September 13, 1996, in response to an appeal moved by Keshub Mahindra and other accused officials of Union Carbide India Ltd. (UCIL), the Supreme Court passed an order diluting the charges of culpable homicide to death caused by negligence (Sec. 304 A of the IPC), thereby reducing the maximum sentence from 10 years to two years. Trials of the Indian accused are currently going on before the CJM, Bhopal but at an extremely slow pace of less than one hearing per month. This year's average is one hearing in two months. Among the major witnesses this year are Dr. S. Varadarajan, who headed the scientific investigation team, Mohanlal Verma, former Union Carbide worker and according to Carbide's propaganda, the disgruntled saboteur behind the tragedy, and T. R. Chouhan former Carbide Worker and author of Bhopal - The Inside Story. 76 witnesses of the prosecution have deposed so far. Union Carbide India Ltd. and other accused aim to present over 100 witnesses.

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Corporate crimes

10. Union Carbide's merger with Dow Chemicals
In August 1999 the US-based multinational Dow Chemicals moved to buy Union Carbide Corporation for $9.3 billion thus creating the second largest chemical behemoth in the world. Dow Chemicals is guilty of producing Agent Orange, 19 million gallons of which were sprayed over 4.5 million acres of Vietnam which maimed hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people and caused horrific birth defects. Dow Chemicals is currently the largest producer of PVC plastics, pesticides, and solvents and is the world's largest source of dioxin – the most toxic chemical in the world earning the distinction of being 'Dioxin King'. The company is known to have deliberately withheld information that its silicone breast implants could cause fatal autoimmune disorders and respiratory damage. In early October 2000, 298 former inmates of Holmsburg prison in Philadelphia filed a lawsuit against Dow Chemicals and others for exposing them to infectious diseases, radiation, dioxin and psychotropic drugs - all without their informed consent - in the course of medical research from 1951 to 1974.

Ever since the disaster, Union Carbide has sought to change its identity in different ways and with the sole motivation of ridding itself of the stigma of Bhopal. Thus Union Carbide India Ltd. changed its name to Eveready Industries India Ltd., Union Carbide Eastern, Hong Kong a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporation de-registered itself in 1992 re-emerging as a new company, Union Carbide Asia. Now, through merging with Dow, Union Carbide is seeking to rid itself of its hated name. In the event of the merger the pending criminal liabilities of Union Carbide will shift to Dow Chemicals. Unfazed, Dow has set up offices in Bombay and announced on September 28, 2000, plans to invest US$1billion in India over the next three years to set up a one million tonne capacity naphtha cracker.

On May 11, 2000 members of the Campaign for Justice in Bhopal a US-based coalition of students and environmental health activists, participated in the annual shareholders meeting of Dow as proxy shareholders and demanded that in the event of a merger Dow accepts Union Carbide's pending liabilities. Dow's response articulated by Chairman Frank Popoff, 'It's not in my power to take responsibility for an event 15 years ago with a product we never developed at a location where we never operated.'

On May 3, 2000 a class action lawsuit was filed against Dow Chemical Corporation and its 17 officials including Chairman Frank P. Popoff by Martin F. Statfeld in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of Dow shareholders. The complaint alleges that Dow violated federal securities laws by failing to disclose in its filing before the Securities Exchange Commission that Union Carbide is exposed to potential liabilities on account of the Bhopal disaster. The law suit alleges that Dow management's ignoring Union Carbide's pending criminal and environmental liabilities during merger negotiations will potentially cause financial harm to Dow shareholders. This class action suit by Dow shareholders is aptly named 'In re Dow Chemical Securities-Bhopal Litigation'.

The Campaign for Justice in Bhopal has also registered complaints against the merger between the two major players in the 'global military industry complex' before the Securities Exchange Commission and other regulatory bodies in the US and other countries.

Meanwhile the merger that was expected to close in the first quarter of 2000 remains to be completed to date, apparently owing to regulatory reviews by the Securities Exchange Commission and other authorities. In November 2000 Dow's newly elected President/CEO Michael D. Parker. in his first media briefing declined to offer a timetable for Dow's acquisition of Union Carbide but did not hesitate to sing paeans of praise: 'Clearly, we're enormously aware of Bhopal and the fact that the particular incident is associated with Union Carbide, [but Union Carbide has] done what it needs to do to pursue the correct environment, health and safety programmes.'

11. Union Carbide back in India in a new guise
As per the 30th April 1992 order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate of the Bhopal District Court, all assets of Union Carbide Corporation are to be confiscated for non-appearance in the criminal case arising from the disaster. This, however, has not kept the corporation away from India. On January 14, 1999 Danbury, Connecticut-based Praxair Inc. announced the start up of a new helium transfill facility in Murbad, India. The facility will import bulk liquid helium containers from production plants in the US. Praxair Inc. is a spin-off of Union Carbide's Industrial Gases Division. Formed in 1992, it not only shares the same address as Union Carbide Corporation but many of its senior executives as is evident from the partial list below.

Praxair Inc.

Union Carbide Corporation

Ronald L. Keuhn, Jr. (Former Director)

Director

Romano Louis, Jr. (Senior Director)

Manager 1974 - 1992

John Amarilios (Real estate lawyer)

Consultant 1985 - 1988

Candice Beno-Clar (Vice-President, International Manager)

Executive 1976 - 1996

Maria Carvalho (Engineering Director)

Official 1992 - present

Ching Chang (Business Development Director)

Director 1973 -1995

John Creedon (Insurance Executive, Board member)

Board member 1987 - present

Horst William Lichtenberger (CEO & Chairman from 1992 - present)

Union Carbide official from 1959 - 1992

The $4.7 billion company's Indian subsidiary, Praxair India Private, Ltd. has its office in Bangalore. If the Central Bureau of Investigation that is prosecuting the absconding Union Carbide Corporation in the Bhopal court plans to seek confiscation of Praxair India's assets, they are being tight-lipped about it.

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Compensation

12. Latest compensation figures
As per the information from the office of the Welfare Commissioner, Bhopal Gas Victims, the following is the status of compensation disbursement as on 31.10.2000.

No. of courts = 56
Functioning = 34

Personal Injury cases Death cases*
Old New Old New
Total no. of registered claims 5,97,908 4,03,815 15310 6839
No of decided cases 5,97,908 3,95,421 15308 6271
No of awarded cases 3,45,252 1,88,108 11628 2782
No of rejected cases 252656
(42%)
207313
(52%)
3680
(24%)
3489
(56%)
No of pending cases ------ 8394 2 568
Total compensation amount 920.61 crores 470.38 crores 77.21 crores 7.32 crores
Average compensation 26664.87 25005.84 66400.06 26312

*Over 6000 deaths have been adjudged to be exposure-related with majority of the death claims being "converted" arbitrarily into injury claims.

Sums far less than standards set by the Indian Railways have been paid to the victims of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal. About Rs. 10,000 is routinely deducted from the compensation amounts against interim monetary relief paid by the government. The rest of the money does not pay for even five years of medical bills for people who are likely to be sick all their lives. No compensation has been paid for mental health injuries. In violation of the legal rights of the victims none of the claimants have been paid any interest on the compensation amount. Judges at the claim courts are ignorant of the medical consequences of toxic exposure and the administration of compensation is riddled with corruption so that the claimants’ inability to pay bribes often results in denial of compensation.

13. Denial of compensation
On February 5, 2000 the Welfare Commissioner, Bhopal Gas Victims, issued a notification amending the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster [Processing of Claims] Scheme, 1985. As per this rather arbitrary notification, claimants whose claims have been rejected for reasons of 'non-appearance' will be denied their right to compensation if they do not restore their claims by May 30, 2000. Survivors organisations have estimated that well over 100,000 individuals who have been injured by the gas disaster will be wrongfully denied compensation as a direct consequence of the amendment. An overwhelming majority of the "non-appearing" claimants have never received any notice, 40,000 claim files are admittedly missing from the office of the Directorate of Claims. The Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan [BGPMUS] and the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) challenged the notification in the Supreme Court of India in July 2000 contending that it is violative of the the constitutional rights of the victim's to receive a fair hearing and a due process of justice. The writ petition also points out that the dismissal of claims without appropriate steps to ensure receipt of the tribunal's notice and the presence of the claimant during the hearing of her/his case, is unjust.

14. Balance of the compensation fund
The settlement sum has nearly tripled due to accrued interest in the last 10 years. Because of the smallness of sums paid and the denial of interest to the claimants a sum as large as Rs.1000 crores is expected to be left behind after all claims have been disposed off. Survivors and solidarity organisations have long been calling for the setting up of a "National Commission on Bhopal" with independent authority and funds for longterm relief and rehabilitation of the survivors. They now demand that the balance of compensation funds should go to such a Commission constituted with professionals and others including representatives of survivors' organisations as well as government officials. Official response to this demand conveyed to the Prime Minister recently on November 24, 2000 is still awaited.

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Union Carbide's Toxic Legacy

!5. A murky business

This year has seen some murky goings on regarding the 18 year old problem of contamination of soil and groundwater in the communities next to Union Carbide's factory in Bhopal. As early as 1982, two years prior to the disaster, tubewells had had to be abandoned. In April 1990, the BGIA highlighted the presence of at least seven toxic chemicals, two of them carcinogens, in the soil and groundwater through sample analysis at the Citizens Environmental Laboratory (CEL), Boston. After the report was presented at Union Carbide's annual shareholders meeting in the same year, the company retained Arthur D. Little [creator/propagator of the sabotage-by-disgruntled-worker fiction] to look into the matter. In the same year the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute [NEERI], an Indian government research agency published a report that said there was no significant contamination. A closer look at the study reveals that it was designed to miss potentially toxic organic chemicals and at least nine chemicals found in the samples were left unidentified. It did not take long for Arthur D. Little and NEERI to find each other and a study was hatched.

One year later the State Research Laboratory of the Public Health Engineering Department reported serious chemical contamination in samples taken from 11 tubewells in the area. This laboratory repeated its exercise in 1996 and reported similar results. Municipal authorities declared water from over 100 tubewells to be unfit for drinking but did nothing towards provision of safe drinking water for the affected communities.

The Arthur D. Little - NEERI study, that remains confidential to date, reports that 21% of the factory premises is seriously contaminated with toxic chemicals such as lindane, sevin and temic. The study also found that the concentration of contaminants increases with depth and recommended a detailed study to determine the extent of contamination. Nothing was heard of that.

The state government, while publicly denying contamination of groundwater by Carbide's chemicals, sought a grant of Rs. 8 crores from the Union government for an alternate supply of drinking water to the affected communities.

In December 1999, Greenpeace published its report on the analysis of samples taken from in and around the Union Carbide factory. Their report mentioned the presence of heavy concentrations of carcinogenic chemicals and mercury (20,000 to 6 million times the expected levels). Twelve volatile organic compounds, most of them greatly exceeding EPA standard limits, were found to have seeped and continue to seep into the drinking water sources of the local communities. The following are some of the compounds found by Greenpeace in one of the drinking water tubewells in Atul Ayub Nagar just north of the Union Carbide factory.

Chemical compound

No. of times greater than EPA limits

Chief effects on health

1, 2-Dichlorobenzene

5

 

Reported to induce anaemia, leukemia, skin lesions, vomiting, headaches, weight loss, yellow atrophy of the liver, kidney damage and chromosomal aberrations.

1, 4-Dichlorobenzene

 

11

 

Tetrachloroethene

9

Shown to increase risk of leukemia, bladder cancer, oesophogal cancer, cervical cancer, skin cancer and liver and kidney tumours.

Trichloroethene

50

Drinking small amounts may cause liver and kidney damage, nervous system effects, impaired immune function and impaired foetal development in pregnant women.

Chloroform

260

Has a carcinogenic effect on the liver, kidneys and/or intestine. Causes miscarriages and lowers sperm counts.

 

Carbon Tetrachloride

 

682

According to the EPA (’97) can cause cancer. High exposure can cause liver, kidney and central nervous system damage, including the brain. Causes headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases coma and even death can occur.

In its report Greenpeace called the factory site a 'Global Toxic Hotspot' requiring immediate clean up by Union Carbide.

While the state government has maintained a long and deliberate silence over the Greenpeace report, it is actively courting the Canadian International Development Agency [CIDA] for funds to deal with the toxic waste problem. Most of the funds are however, expected to go to R. J. Burnside International Ltd., a Canadian environmental engineering firm that is being actively supported by the Chairman, M.P. Pollution Control Board, Mr. V.K. Jain. The 5000 families who are routinely forced to drink the contaminated water have little to rejoice about as regards the promised Canadian assistance. In all official communication with the CIDA, the toxic waste problem is mentioned only as the chemicals stored in tanks in the plant, go-downs and drums. Well over 1000 metric tonnes of chemical waste that lie below the ground are poisoning drinking water sources. This is not mentioned in these communications.

In May 2000 the BGPMUS and BGIA denounced the Canadian venture as yet another example of obfuscating the magnitude of the environmental crime of Union Carbide, and actively colluding with the killer corporation in evading criminal and environmental liability. The organisations also called for prosecution of Mr. Jain for his wilful neglect of the environmental health of the communities adjacent to Carbide.

16. Good news from Bhopal : Workers victorious against Union Carbide
On June 21st, 1999 the judge of the Labour Court in Bhopal, Ms. Seema Shrivastava ruled in favour of workers who were sacked by Union Carbide in July 1985 following the closure of the factory. Holding the termination of the employees invalid, she has directed Union Carbide India Limited [renamed Eveready Industries India Limited] to pay full wages with all service benefits to the workers till such time as their services are terminated in accordance with the law. This would amount to about Rs.1 million per worker. She has directed that the company management pay the sums due to the workers within 90 days. The company management has filed an appeal against the judgement before the Industrial Court and it is evident they will not give up easily. Meanwhile, workers are jubilant with their victory in this 15 year long legal battle.

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Economic Rehabilitation

17. Very poor show
The Madhya Pradesh government has spent about Rs.70 crores on providing economic rehabilitation to survivors with pitiably little to show for it. Today there are at least 50,000 men and women who are so sick and weak from exposure-related diseases that they can no longer earn a livelihood from hard physical labour. Yet government programs have offered jobs to only 80 women. Even these jobs at the Stationery Production Centre remain to be regularised after 12 years. This year, for several months, women at this centre were not paid salaries. On October 5, 2000, a worker in this Centre lost his thumb to one of the paper-cutting machines. The worker had previously sent several written complaints about the malfunctioning machine without any action by the higher officials.

Of the 152 worksheds built in 1990 at the Special Industrial Unit, 16 are only partially functional and 52 have been converted into barracks for the paramilitary Rapid Action Force. Only 461 persons have received any training in the last 13 years.

13 local NGOs, most of whom are connected to the ruling party were entrusted with running training-cum-production centres by the government in 1994. By 1998 all except two of these NGOs were not running any kind of employment generation program. In 1998, production of jute handicrafts was begun with an investment of Rs.1 crore that offered employment to 400 women for 13 months. However, on March 16, 1999 this program was terminated on the grounds that there was no market for the goods produced.

The BGPMUS has recently set up a training-cum-production centre to be run by the Swabhiman Mahila Prashikshan Sanstha. At the moment the centre employs 100 women who prepare jute bags and do stitching work.

18. No support to widows and orphans
It should be a matter of national shame that the victims who have lost their parents, husbands or other family members have had no social support. No official agency is concerned with victims with severe exposure-related disabilities who are unable to support themselves and their families. Through legal intervention by the BGPMUS in the Supreme Court of India, such persons received a monthly pension but it was discontinued after payment of compensation. The amounts such persons have received as compensation have been paltry and mostly spent in repaying debts. Yet the Madhya Pradesh government does not even have a record of persons rendered destitute as a result of the disaster

19. CAG's damning indictment against the MP government
The latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) for the year 1999 has severely crticised the Madhya Pradesh Government for its "failure'' to effectively implement the action plan for medical relief and rehabilitation of the victims of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster.

In its report tabled in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, the CAG has blamed the State Government for poor utilisation of funds and for expenditure on activities not connected with relief or rehabilitation of the gas victims. The State Government has also been put in the dock by the CAG for excessive payment of Rs.19.46 lakhs to the Indian Red Cross Society and purchase of medicines at exorbitant rates. The CAG has also been critical of the excess payment of Rs.3.94 crores due to cost escalation and Rs.7.4 crores on additional items during the construction of the Kamla Nehru Hospital. The report has also highlighted the excessive expenditures made on the Indira Gandhi Hospital for women and children.

In the matter of economic rehabilitation of the gas victims, the CAG has pointed out that only 4,080 persons were trained in less than 25 trades against the target of giving vocational training to 3,600 persons each year in 40 different trades between 1990 and 1999. The "Special Industrial Area" under which 152 industrial worksheds were constructed to provide jobs to 10,000 workers at a cost of Rs.8.19 crores has also been described as a disaster since only 2,443 workers could benefit under this project.

20. Good news from Bhopal: The struggle continues
Public meetings attended by hundreds of survivor activists have been held every week in the past several years, by two organisations, namely Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan and Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangarsh Morcha. Demonstrations by these and the third survivors' organisation - Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal have continued both locally as well as in New Delhi and Bombay. At the demonstrations in Delhi and Bombay held on the occasion of President Clinton's visit to India, survivors condemned his brokering of deals between the Indian government and US corporations. In addition to the issues directly related to the disaster such as the US court's dismissal of the class action suit or amendment of the compensation distribution scheme, survivors' organisations mobilized on issues of price rise, inadequacies of the public distribution system, social security and other matters. The protest of the Bhopal survivors was represented both at the anti-World Bank/IMF demonstrations in Washington DC and Prague. Members of the Bhopal Information Network, Japan paid a solidarity visit to Bhopal in September 2000.