Protest rallies and all-religion prayer meetings marked the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy on Wednesday that killed over 5,000 people as justice and adequate compensation was demanded for tens of thousands of suffering survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster.
The disaster in the aftermath of the leak of 40 tonnes of deadly methyl isocyanate gas at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant on the intervening night of December 2 and 3 in 1984 was also recalled in Parliament. Members of both Houses stood in silence for a few minutes as a mark of respect to the dead.
In Rajya Sabha, Chairman Hamid Ansari said the human tragedy sends shivers even to this day when we are reminded of people who were rendered incapacitated and children who were born with various deformities after the tragedy. He pledged Parliament’s support to the survivors.
Though unofficial estimates claimed that the death toll due to the tragedy had crossed 25,000, official figures stood at 5,295 for whom the government had compensated. In addition, tens of thousands of survivors are struggling with cancer, blindness, respiratory difficulties and immune and neurological disorders.
The NGOs working for the rights of the affected persons took out protest rallies in the old Bhopal area where the defunct Union Carbide factory is situated and burnt effigies.
They demanded adequate compensation, proper medical treatment and severe punishment to those responsible.
Five organizations representing the survivors made an appeal to people all over the world to put pressure on responsible parties to end the suffering and pain as it spills into the fourth decade.
An all-religion prayer was held at the Barkatullah Bhawan to pay homage to victims of the tragedy.
A separate meeting to pay respects to the victims was also organised at Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangthan headed by its Convenor, Abdul Jabbar at Shahjehani Park.
Waving flaming torches, hundreds of protesters last night took to the streets and torched effigies of Dow Chemical and Warren Anderson at various places in Bhopal seeking justice for the survivors and families of the dead. Anderson, who headed Union Carbide at the time of the leak and died in US in September this year, remained a focus of much of the anger of the survivors.
An NGO working for the gas victims alleged that even 30 years after the disaster there are no accurate figures on the death toll and also raised concern over the toxic waste lying in the defunct Union Carbide plant situated close to the densely populated old Bhopal area.
NGO Bhopal Group for Information Action’s (BGIA) activist Rachna Dhingra claimed that as per their information, the death toll had crossed 25,000.
“We are demanding compensation for the same, but the state government has so far compensated only for 5,295 deaths,” she
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan while paying his tributes said the state government has already given Rs 3,840 crore compensation to 5.74 lakh affected persons and has proposed to give an additional Rs 675 crore to them.