A national level research institute meant to study the impact of Bhopal gas tragedy on health of the survivors and environment around the abandoned Union Carbide factory is limping with staff crunch, poor facilities and little progress on research front.
Gas survivors' organisations have claimed on basis of documents obtained through Right to Information (RTI) that during the last four year since its inception, the National Institute for Research on Environmental Health (NIREH) has failed to complete even a single research. During the last four years, only 412 patients have benefitted in form of clinical treatment for eye and pulmonary problems.
The NIREH, an Indian council of Medical Research (ICMR) centre, was set up on the campus of the Kamla Nehru Hospital in year 2010 as a Union government initiative to find out the long term impact of the Bhopal gas tragedy on people and environment of the city. However, the institute has failed to make any positive impact for the gas survivors, organisations have said.
Balkrishna Namdeo of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha alleged "Of the 10 research proposals listed, only one project is working. Two other projects are being carried out by external researchers at their own work places." He further said that of the sanctioned 184 posts, only 44 have been filled and even their academic qualification/expertise remains questionable.
Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group of Information and Action (BGIA) said that the institute does not have a full time director. Of the five scientists currently in NIREH, four have not published a single research paper in international journals in their entire career and two have faced disciplinary action.
She also said that in violation of ICMR's ethical code, research on survivors of the gas disaster is being carried out without their informed consent which has led to two of research projects being stopped midway. Satinath Sarangi, also of BGIA, alleged that out of the six clinical research wings, only one (pulmonary department) is functional.
Rashida Bee of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh alleged that despite expenditure of Rs 8 crore on renovation, no laboratory at NIREH is in working condition.
Recently, during the 5th anniversary celebrations of the institute, the gas survivors' organisations had submitted a memorandum to the acting director of the institute, Dr Manoj Pandey. "There has been no response from him," Dhingra said. The repeated attempts of HT to contact Dr Pandey also were in vain as he did not respond to phone calls and text message.