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Sravani Sarkar, Hindustan Times
Bhopal, December 04, 2012
Even twenty-eight years after the gas tragedy, 80% of the surviving victims continue to suffer the same extent of psychiatric problems that they suffered immediately after the tragedy. As far as overall population of the gas-affected areas is concerned, one in every five person has clear psychiatric disorders. Women, poor and illiterate people, physically disabled and Muslims are most affected by the tragedy.

Such is the impact of economic stability that while only 5% of the well-off people suffer from the mental health problems, the percentage is as high as 40% among the economically deprived.

All this points been revealed in a survey undertaken during last few months by a team headed by prominent Bangalore-based psychiatrist, Dr R Srinivasa Murthy who was till recently working with the upcoming National Institute for Research in Environmental Health (NIREH).

Dr Murthy's team managed to traced 94 out of the 500 gas victims who were surveyed for mental health disorders between 1984 and 1994 (under an Indian Council of Medical Research project) and found that 80% of them still had the same psychiatric problems. "The major problems these people face after 28 years of the tragedy are panic attacks, anxiety, palpitation, sleeplessness and general depression," Dr Murthy told HT. Also, four out of five persons among victims remain continuously ill.

He said that additional population of 600 in Noor Mahal locality was surveyed and it was found that 20% of them had clear psychiatric problems.

The prominent psychiatrist, associated with the gas victims since right after the tragedy said, "These figures show that the affected populace was not provided the necessary comprehensive continuing care that could have eased them out."

Dr Murthy rued the fact that the community treated the victims unfairly and did not display the empathy and care these people needed. "The nation has wronged the people of Bhopal by not acknowledging their pain in way it should have done. These people need care more than compensation," he stressed.