1984 December 2 – The worst industrial disaster in the history of mankind happened at Bhopal,Madhya Pradesh State, India in a notorious multinational company named Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) from which a venomous gas called Methyl Isocyanate leaked out in the wee hours from the poorly maintained factory, killing thousands, maiming lakhs in and around Bhopal besides ‘living martyrs’ struggling for life without getting any worthwhile compensation forthcoming from the irresponsible company owners, mind you, it was a multinational firm based in USA. Neither the govt of India nor the then Madhya Pradesh govt headed by late, a Congress heavy-weight allegedly cared not to alleviate the sufferings of those who survived still reeling under the impact of the worst industrial tragedy ever witnessed by the world. Compared to Union Carbide disaster which shook India and shocked the whole world, Chernobyl disaster which occurred in Russia was not at all a match. In other words, a comparison between the two is preposterous.
Instead of arresting and incarcerating the head of the factory in India, Warren Anderson, was reportedly provided with all help by the concerned govts, both at the Centre and State-level and extended to him all facilities to safely escape from the country to his native land USA. That step was essential for rescuing him from the wrath of natives of Madhya Pradesh.
Both govts, Central and States, didn’t rise to the occasion and allegedly didn’t care much expected of them under such tragic circumstances. In a disaster of that magnitude it was the primary responsibility of our authorities both at Central and State level to prevail upon the owners of the multinational company to provide the dependents of those who perished in the disaster, demand maximum compensation they deserved then and there, it was the responsibility of authorities both at the Central and State level to extract maximum compensation to other victims of the tragedy who remain alive as the ‘living martyrs’ struggling for life to withstand the deadly consequences of poisonous Methyl Isocyanate gas which they inhaled during sleep in the wee hours of the morning who found and still find themselves between the hard rock and deep violent sea.
Now that nearly three decades have passed the conditions of the victims remain as such.
On Thursday, the Honourable Court of the land, the Supreme Court of India, a division bench headed by Chief Justice S.H.Kapadia, Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar delivered a verdict in favour of the victims by directing the State and Central govts to take necessary steps to remove the toxic remains lying in and around the company in six months. The court further ordered to convene a meeting by the empowered monitoring committee, the Advisory Committee, Institute of Research and Environmental Health (IREH) with the Secretary of Central govt and the Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh govt within one month and take immediate steps to remove the hazardous materials at the earliest which if not removed will spread to a wide area affecting the health of those living in its vicinity. Furthermore, the court ordered the concerned authorities to provide the victims with health booklets, smart cards, computerization of medical records of the patients so as to enable them to claim compensation.
The hospitals entrusted with looking after the health needs of victims The Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre and Gas Research Hospital allegedly cared not to extend the required treatment to victims suffering from severe respiratory problems and Total Renal Failure (TRF). Instead of caring emergency needs of the gas victims the medical staff are still concerned with the treatment of other patients admitted in these hospitals. Number of dialysis needed for the each suffering from renal failure are restricted to 8 instead of conducting two dialysis per week.
Many private clinics have risen in and around the disaster site but the poor victims can’t afford to undergo dialysis at these hospitals as they charge Rs 1500 – Rs 2000 for each dialysis. In both the govt and private hospitals due to lack of hygienic facilities, many patients contract hepatitis making their life more pathetic and miserable. Lack of doctors, other staff and lack of necessary medical equipments too have made the problem worse for the victims.
Now that Supreme Court has intervened and has extended the freedom to the gas-affected victims and their organizations to approach Bhopal High Court at Jabalpur in case of any complaints and may obtain remedial action. The health booklets, smart cards and medical records will enable the victims to produce wherever required and get their problems redressed. Formerly such facilities were not available to them and hence they had no documentary evidences to present before the concerned officials.
The presence of a strong, active and independent judiciary in our country is the ultimate outlet and savior for those at the lower strata of society where the Parliament and Executive fail. That is an average Indian citizen’s ultimate hope and faith.