19 July, 2004, Bhopal In a major victory for the Bhopal survivors, the Supreme Court today ordered the Government of India to distribute the balance of compensation remaining from Union Carbide’s settlement among the 566,876 Bhopal survivors whose claims have been successfully settled. The balance of the hitherto undistributed compensation has accumulated interest and grown to Rs. 1,505 crores (some $327 million).
Survivors whose claims may have been wrongly dismissed or who were underpaid were directed by the court to file a separate application, and seek compensation from the Government of India. The case, argued by Advocate S. Muralidhar, was filed on 5 March 2003 by 36 petitioners representing one gas-affected wards each.
While this is a real victory for the survivors and their supporters, they have been made to wait nearly twenty years since the night of terror. The average payout will still only amount to $570 per person which, despite Dow-Carbide’s now famous dictum that “$500 is plenty good for an Indian”, comes nowhere near meeting the costs of medical treatment that survivors have already had to fund for themselves, much less compensating for two decades of illness, loss of livelihood and fear for what new horrors may emerge in their bodies.
It is a further setback for the Dow-Carbide corporation and its political accomplices in India, who are on record as demanding that this money, meant for the relief of the survivors, should be used to clean up the company’s abandoned and polluted factory in Bhopal. Last month, the Government of India threw its weight behind a court action to force Dow-Carbide to bear the full costs of cleaning the plant. (See stories below)<br
Needless to say, today the Bhopalis are jubilant. This evening, the city will be in a celebratory mood – a large, colourful juloos is planned. The media has set upon them, and a press conference is being held at 5 p.m. Bhopal time.