Ahead of the 31st anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster, five organisations working for the tragedy survivors have alleged that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is reluctant to share data on deaths caused by the exposure to toxic gas released in the 1984 tragedy.
The organisations — Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogee Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha and Children Against Dow-Carbide — have now decided to file a petition at the Delhi high court against the ICMR.
Addressing a press conference on Saturday, representatives of the organisations claimed that they had RTI documents that showed that ICMR experts were refusing to come clear on the data sought by the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers.
The ICMR had conducted research on effects of exposure of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas on the people, including deaths, till the year 1993.
The NGOs claim that if the figures collected during the research in selected sample population by the ICMR were extrapolated, then it could be determined that at least 9,617 persons had died due to exposure to the toxic gas till 1993.
If the figure was further extrapolated scientifically till 2005, the death toll would rise to 22,917. The ICMR has however refused to comment on the matter, Rachna Dhingra of BGIA said.
In November 2014, six women survivors and an activist representing the five NGOs went on a waterless fast to press their demands for figure revision and the fact that most of the injuries were of a permanent nature.
Review petition currently mentions only 5,295 deaths
The review petition currently mentions only 5,295 deaths and claims that most survivors had suffered only temporary injuries.
Following this, the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers decided to revise the figures of death and extent of injuries in a review petition filed by the Union government in the Supreme Court.
The ministry wrote four letters to the state government and three to the ICMR in relation to the figures and extent of injuries.
The organisations said that according to the agreement, the ministry was to obtain records from the hospitals run by the state government and scientific estimates of death figures from the ICMR on the basis of their research on Bhopal.
It was understood that based on the figures provided by the state and central agencies, the ministry would consider revising figures presented in the curative petition to obtain additional compensation from American corporations.
However, RTI documents showed the ICMR experts’ reluctance on the issue who were saying that they could not comment on the figures as ‘it was a judicial matter’.
“Therefore the organisations are thinking of approaching the HC on the matter,” Satinath Sarangi of BGIA said during the press conference.
Rashida Bee of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Balkrishna Namdeo of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogee Sangharsh Morcha, Nawab Khan of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha and Safreen Khan of Children Against Dow-Carbide were also present at the press conference.