In a comprehensive victory for Bhopal survivors, the Indian Supreme Court today affirmed that unpaid compensation money amounting to £187 million (€270 million, US$343 million), belonged to the survivors and to them alone. The court dismissed applications by the government of Madhya Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Union Carbide’s Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust and two other organisations, all of whom were hoping to grab a share of compensation money which has been sitting in a Reserve Bank of India dollar bank account for the last fifteen years.
Earlier this year survivors’ organisations petitioned the Supreme Court to order the sum, including accrued interest, to be distributed among the people for whom it had been intended, many of whom are chronically ill, unable to work and living on the edge of the abyss. The petition was granted by the Supreme Court on July 19, but distribution has been delayed by a blizzard of opportunistic applications from others who never had any right to the money.
With urban civic body elections due to take place in Bhopal next month, the BJP political party engaged in a bit of voter-massage by demanding that the money be distributed also in parts of the city that were not affected by the gas disaster. Their application was dismissed.
Union Carbide’s Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust, which is rich enough to provide a swimming pool for its staff, but which has often turned away gas victims who do not have the right paperwork, also had its application turned down.
2,000 Bhopalis, who had gathered in Delhi to demonstrate outside the Indian parliament were tonight rejoicing. You can see the rare sight of smiles on Bhopali survivors’ faces by clicking the link below to the article, which includes the official press release.