Bhopal gas victims have little hope from new relief package

Bhopal, June 22 (Calcutta Tube) The survivors of the world’s worst industrial tragedy that hit the Madhya Pradesh capital in December 1984 don’t have ‘much hope’ from the new Rs.1,500 crore (Rs 15,000 million) relief package announced by the government and doubt whether it will be ‘distributed among the families of the victims honestly’.

The Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram on the Bhopal gas tragedy Monday recommended that the government should press for former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson’s extradition from the US and earmarked Rs.1,500 crore (over 300 USD) as relief package for the thousands of people killed and maimed by the tragedy.

Ruksana, 62, of J.P. Nagar which is located close to an abandoned pesticide plant of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) that leaked lethal methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas that wiped out her six-member family along with an estimated 20,000 persons over the years, said: ‘Since the date the tragedy hit us, we every day hear that we will get a massive compensation amount, but it hardly reaches the real victims.’

‘I doubt whether the new relief package will be distributed among the families of the victims honestly,’ she said.

She added: ‘The money comes only for leaders and VIPs, the real sufferers are still suffering and the government seems to be doing its best to add to our agony, I don’t have much hope from the new package. If the killers of thousands of people can be allowed to walk free then how can I expect the amount to be distributed honestly?’

She was largely expressing her anger over a Bhopal court verdict June 7 that sentenced seven Indian executives of UCIL to two years in jail. The officials managed to get bail within an hour of the verdict. This sparked outrage in the country in general and Madhya Pradesh in particular.

Thirty-eight-year-old Rehan of the J.P. Nagar area who has serious breathing problems and can hardly walk for even five minutes since the tragedy struck his 11-member family, said: ‘I have no hope at all from government, neither from the central nor from the state government. Everyone is playing politics, and those who are playing with our sufferings and sentiments will be punished by god.’

In its final report submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the GoM has recommended Rs.10 lakh to the next of kin of the dead, Rs.5 lakh for the permanently disabled and Rs.3 lakh for those disabled partially.

‘It’s good that after virtually 26 years, the government is trying to understand the difficulties of the massive population hit by the tragedy,’ said a prominent activist Abdul Jabbar, convenor of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sanghatan.

He added: ‘But I fear that there may again be injustice in distribution of the relief amount as I heard that government will provide Rs.10 lakh compensation to only those who died on the night of Dec 2-3 and the families of those who died after months and years of the tragedy will not be benefited.’

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