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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

34 yrs later, Bhopal gas tragedy survivors face another challenge

Bhopal gas tragedy, described as the world’s worst industrial disaster, more than 15,000 people were killed after methyl-isocyanate leaked on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 from the pesticide plant of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) in the city.

india Updated: Dec 02, 2018 23:43 IST
Ranjan and Shruti Tomar
Ranjan and Shruti Tomar
Hindustan Times, Bhopal
Survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy along with others taking part in a torch rally taken out to pay tributes to the victims of the disaster on the eve of 34th anniversary in Bhopal on Sunday, December 2, 2018.
Survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy along with others taking part in a torch rally taken out to pay tributes to the victims of the disaster on the eve of 34th anniversary in Bhopal on Sunday, December 2, 2018. (Mujeeb Faruqui/HT Photo)
         

As survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, which claimed more than 15,000 lives, continue to fight for proper rehabilitation and adequate compensation, they face yet another challenge following the merger of Dow Chemicals and DuPont companies.

According to the survivors’ organisations, the merger of the two companies will result in the disappearance of the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) as a legal entity, which, they say, will adversely affect their claim for compensation from Dow Chemicals-owned UCC.

Described as the world’s worst industrial disaster, over 15,000 people were killed after methyl isocyanate leaked on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 from the pesticide plant of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) in the city.

The organisations want the central government to step in to prevent Dow Chemical from escaping the responsibility for the crime committed against people of Bhopal.

As per the organisations, as many as five organisations have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard in February this year but the PMO is yet to act on their letter.

President of one of the organisations -- Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Rashida Bee said, “The PMO has not taken a single step to stop Union Carbide’s disappearance through the trifurcation of Dow-DuPont that will begin two months from now. At the PMO’s grievance portal our letter of February this year (PMOPG/D/2018/0084804) remains pending for the last eight months.”

“It is a matter of fundamental legal principle that criminal liability cannot be transferred from one entity to another, not even to a succeeding one. Therefore, once Union Carbide ceases to exist in its current form, India’s courts will have been stripped of their power to pursue and enforce the grave criminal charges still pending against it,” the letter read.

Bhopal Group for Information and Action convener Rachna Dhingra said, “In 2010 the then Congress government at the Centre filed a curative Petition in the Supreme Court seeking additional compensation of 1.2 billion dollars. However, neither the Congress nor the BJP governments have filed any application for urgent hearing in the last eight years and the curative petition has not moved an inch since it was filed.”

As per a curative petition filed by central government in the Supreme Court in 2010 for enhanced compensation to the tragedy victims, as many as 5,295 people died in the tragedy while 4,944 suffered from serious health problems due to the tragedy. However, survivors’ organisations claim the number of deceased, and those suffering from ailments as a result of the tragedy, is much higher. The number of people affected so far, including members of next two generations, is more than 5,70,000, they say.

The Centre had sought enhancement of compensation by an additional Rs 77.28 billion.

First Published: Dec 02, 2018 23:33 IST