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Private clinics mushroom in gas-hit Bhopal: Gas-hit areas in the Madhya Pradesh capital have seen a sharp rise in the number of private medical practitioners in the past two decades

IndiaPRwire, October 10, 2006
Gas-hit areas in the Madhya Pradesh capital have seen a sharp rise in the number of private medical practitioners in the past two decades.
Over 3,000 people were killed when 40 tonnes of lethal MIC gas leaked out of Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in December 1984. To this day, residents exposed to the lethal gas have been suffering from respiratory and other ailments.
The number of private nursing homes and clinics in gas-hit areas has shot up from 60 to 260 in just two decades. The costly treatments have drained the victims of the gas tragedy both economically and emotionally.
‘The compensation of Rs.50,000 each for the gas victims is little when compared to their huge medical bills,’ says Abdul Jabbar, an activist, and convenor of THEpal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan.
Mohan Lal, 42, has been suffering from respiratory disorders for over 22 years.
‘It’s been so many years, but it looks we’ll never get well again.’
Lal used to earn Rs.6,000 a month by selling spices till the tragedy struck. But it is difficult for him to perform physical labour now. He has sold his two ancestral homes for Rs.350,000 to sustain his family of five.
‘All the money goes into paying medical bills. Still we do not keep well,’ he rued.
There are thousands who are suffering like Mohan Lal.
The ‘irrational’ course of treatment has been condemned by activists. Apart from the respiratory system, neurological, reproductive and immune systems of the gas victims have also been affected. Cases of tuberculosis here are four times higher than the national average.
To add to their woes victims have been plagued by widespread corruption.
More than 70 percent of government doctors serving them have clinics of their own. And the patients are encouraged to see the doctors at their clinics, a report on the gas victims points out.
‘In 1996, International Medical Commission on Bhopal charged Union Carbide with concealing information on chemicals that leaked. Even now many synergistic health impacts of the toxic gases are not known,’ claims Satinath Sarangi, an activist who runs Sambhavna Clinic for the victims.
A Fact Finding Mission report released on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the tragedy also pointed out that in 72 percent cases patients are being given useless or harmful drugs and 53 percent patients are unsatisfied with the course of treatment.
The study also found many untreated mental illnesses linked to the disaster.
‘In the 9/11 case, a compensation of Rs.80 million per head was given in less than a year. But the Indian government has neglected the victims. Even in a government-sponsored scheme, only 80 gas-hit women have got a job,’ Jabbar said.

Moneylenders cash in on victims’ payout

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