Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh Bhopal Group for Information and Action

Press Statement April 7, 2003

On April 4, 2003, the Supreme Court of India has directed the Union Government to submit a detailed reply to the issues raised by survivors of the December '84 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal regarding the balance of compensation funds. Addressing a press conference today, leaders of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh [BGPMSKS] stated that a writ petition was filed on March 5, 2003 on behalf of 36 survivors representing the 36 municipal wards declared to be gas affected by the government. The petition alleges that the fundamental constitutional rights of equality before law and right to life of the victims of the disaster have been violated due to non-payment of interest on the compensation amount to the claimants.

According to information supplied by the office of the Welfare Commissioner in March 2002, a balance of Rs. 1360 Crores remains of the settlement fund meant for disbursement of compensation to over half million claimants. According to the writ petition, argued by Supreme Court lawyer Mr. S. Muralidhar, the survivors of the disaster have a
legal right to the balance of settlement fund. The petition argues that the balance remains because claimants were paid paltry sums of compensation and were not paid the interest due to them. The petition alleges that non-payment of interest to Bhopal claimants violates the provisions under the Indian Interest Act [1978].

In June 2002, the Central government's Group of Ministers on Bhopal announced that the balance of settlement fund would be distributed to residents of non-affected wards in Bhopal. Following the 19-day hunger strike in New Delhi by leaders of the survivors rganizations, the government was forced to withdraw this announcement. Both the Central
and State governments have also announced, on different occasions, that the balance of funds would be used to clean-up the contamination in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory. This too was opposed by the survivors organizations who argued that the cost of clean-up must be borne by Dow Chemical Company the new owners of Union Carbide. The State government, in its turn, proposed that the balance of funds be used to
bring water from river Narmada to Bhopal.

"Both the Central and State governments are intent on grabbing what morally and legally belongs to us Bhopal victims," said Rashida Bi, President of BGPMSKS. "We will fight these evil designs and ensure that victims receive the interest due to them" she said. "We are entitled to this money on humanitarian grounds to cover the costs of our continuing
medical expenses," said Mrs. Champa Devi, Secretary of the organization.

Quoting from a survey on compensation in gas-affected Jaiprakash Nagar, Mr. Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action said that 91% of the claimants in this worst affected community were paid the minimum compensation of Rs. 25, 000. The majority of claimants were paid compensation more than eight years after filing their claims. "The survey shows that claimants in Jaiprakash Nagar are entitled to payment of interest in the range of Rs. 34 thousand to Rs 117 thousand, which has to come from the balance of settlement funds", said Mr. Sarangi.

Mrs. Rashida Bi, Mrs. Champa Devi Shukla
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh Satinath Sarangi
Bhopal Group for Information and Action

House No. 12, Gali No. 2, Near Naseer Masjid, Bag Umrao Dulha, Bhopal
Tel: 9827238637