Press Release- Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghathan ( BGPMUS)


BGPMUS-BGPSSS: Press Statement-15-03-2013
*BHOPAL GAS PEEDITH MAHILA UDYOG SANGHATHAN (BGPMUS)*

51, Rajender Nagar, Bhopal – 462010

&

*BHOPAL GAS PEEDITH SANGHARSH SAHAYOG SAMITI (BGPSSS)*

C/o Delhi Science Forum, D-158, Saket, New Delhi- 110017

*PRESS STATEMENT*

15 March 2013

Responding to criticism about the brazen manner in which the Italian
Government had reneged on the commitment made to the Supreme Court of
India, Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh stated in Parliament on 13.03.2013
that: *“Our government has… insisted that the Italian authorities respect
the undertakings they have given to the Hon’ble Supreme Court and return
the two accused persons to stand trial in India. If they do not keep their
word there will be consequences for our relations with Italy.” *While this
purported resolve on the part of the Government of India (GOI) is wholly
welcome, it is, however, doubtful if the GOI would actually take all
necessary steps to ensure the return of the said accused to India in the
light of the GOI’s shameful past record in this regard.

It is a well-known fact that the GOI has done pretty little to bring Warren
Anderson, accused No.1 in the Bhopal Gas Leak disaster criminal case, to
justice even twenty-eight years after disaster. BGPMUS and BGPSSS would
like to point out that it was based on a written undertaking that he would
return to India to stand trial that Warren Anderson was allowed to fly back
to the U.S. within six hours after he was arrested in Bhopal on 07.12.1984.
It is, therefore, evident that the written undertaking on behalf of
Anderson was given only for hoodwinking the Bhopal gas-victims and other
concerned citizens and not for holding the accused to account. The
connivance on the part of the GOI in allowing Warren Anderson to go
scot-free is apparent on the face of it. In all these years, the Government
of Madhya Pradesh too has not exerted any pressure on the GOI to seek
extradition of Warren Anderson from the U.S. to stand trial in India. Other
instances of tardiness/active connivance on the part of the GOI in allowing
accused persons to flee the country include the following:

– On 29.07.1993, Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian businessperson who
acted as a conduit for bribes in the Bofors scandal, managed to escape from
India because of the unwillingness on the part of the GOI to take timely
action despite having adequate prima facie evidence against him in the
matter. On two more occasions in 2006 and 2007, the GOI intervened to let
him completely off the hook.

– On 22.12.1995, Kim Davy, who was instrumental in air-dropping a large
consignment of AK-47 rifles, pistols, anti-tank grenades, rocket launchers
and thousands of rounds of ammunition in Purulia district of West Bengal on
17.12.1995, was allowed to escape from the Mumbai airport despite the
Indian Air Force  managing to force-land the aircraft in which he was
travelling. Since then, Kim Davy, who has actively aided and abetted
terrorist activities in India, has found a safe haven in Denmark and the
GOI – other than pretending that it is seeking Kim Davy’s extradition to
India – has done little to mount pressure on the Government of Denmark to
hand-over the terrorist to India.

– Peter Bleach, co-accused in the same Purulia arms-drop case, who was
arrested by the police at the Mumbai airport on 22.12.1995 and who was
subsequently sentenced to life-imprisonment, was granted Presidential
pardon at the behest of the British Government and was allowed to leave the
country on 04.02.2004. As to why the British Government had come to the
defense of a terrorist and as to why the GOI was lenient enough to let go a
terrorist, who was caught red-handed while aiding and abetting terrorism in
India, are matters that require serious introspection.

– Based on an undertaking by the French Government on 06.01.1998, the
two French nationals Francois Clavel and Elle Philippe, who were arrested
in 1996 off the coast of Kochi as accused in the Ocean survey espionage
case, were allowed to leave the country on the condition that they would
return to India by 10.05.1998. Although the French Government has reneged
on the undertaking for the last fifteen years, the GOI is yet to take the
French Government to task for failing to ensure the return of the said two
accused French nationals to India to stand trial.

– On 14.05.2004, Rabinder Singh, a Joint Secretary in the Research &
Analysis Wing (RAW – the external intelligence agency of the Government of
India) and who was suspected to be a CIA mole in RAW, managed to escape to
the U.S. reportedly with copies of several sensitive documents.  The GOI
has till date not exerted any pressure on the U.S. Administration to
handover the traitor, who has compromised India’s security.

– On 16.07.2012, an Indian fisherman was killed and three other Indian
fishermen were injured when without any provocation their fishing boat was
fired upon by guards aboard a U.S. Naval ship just off the coast of Dubai.
The GOI had done little to hold the U.S. Government responsible for the
mindless crime and to take necessary action accordingly.

– Although, as per the U.S. Court verdict of 24.01.2013, David Headley
was found guilty of playing a key role in masterminding the Mumbai
terrorist strike of 26.11.2008, the GOI has not exerted sufficient pressure
on the U.S. Government to handover the terrorist to India. The GOI is
reluctant to raise the obvious question as to why the U.S. Government is
intent on shielding Headley and shying away from extraditing him to India
if the U.S. Government has nothing to hide regarding the 26/11 Mumbai
attack.

There can be no solution to these problems until and unless the GOI and the
concerned political parties in this country are willing to give up their
subservient attitude towards Western Powers and are ready to uphold the
dignity of the people of India. The sooner they do so, the better.

Abdul Jabbar Khan

(Convener, BGPMUS)

N.D.Jayaprakash

(Co-Convener, BGPSSS)

 

# India-“All marginalized groups are insecure”


NEW DELHI, December 8, 2012

Mohammad Ali, The Hindu

Ahead of the International Human Rights Day on December 10, the Working Group on Human Rights (WGHR) in India and the UN have expressed concerns over the “deteriorating” human rights conditions in the country, adding that all the marginalised groups were feeling insecure. While releasing the “Human Rights in India – Status Report 2012”, WGHR convenor Miloon Kothari appealed to the Indian Government to fulfil its national and international human rights commitments in these areas.

Expressing concern at the increased militarisation, lawyer and activist Vrinda Grover highlighted that the last four years have seen a marked increase in the deployment of security forces and draconian laws by the Indian Government to deal with socio-economic uprisings and political dissent and also to push the State’s development agenda.

The Indian Government is not ready to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), one of the draconian laws widely used in conflict areas, in spite of the fact that various UN human rights bodies and government committees have repeatedly called for it,” she added.

Underlining the ‘contradiction’ in the Government’s position, Ms. Grover argued that the military approach and the on-going conflicts contradict India’s stated position in the UN that “India does not face either international or non-international armed conflict”.

‘Torture practised’

“Torture is routinely practised as a law enforcement strategy throughout India. It is even more widespread and violent in conflict areas. Enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence as well as the use of lethal force in dispersing largely peaceful protests remain entrenched in these areas,” she added.

Highlighting the human cost of the development, Shivani Chaudhry, associate director, Housing and Land Rights Network, argued that the prevalent economic policies and overwhelming preoccupation of the Government on increasing GDP growth rate has contributed to increased violations of economic, social and cultural rights in India, with poverty, hunger, malnutrition and inadequate housing and living conditions affecting a large percentage of the population.

“India remains home to world’s largest number of hungry masses and malnourished children, along with the highest child mortality rate in the world. Due to the so-called development projects, we have around one million people getting displaced annually without concrete measures of rehabilitation and resettlement. There are six doctors and nine hospital beds per 10,000 people, while only 15 per cent of the population has health insurance,” said Ms. Chaudhary.

When the GDP falls from eight per cent to five per cent, the Government does emergency meetings and brings about a policy overhaul but ironically there are some disturbing statistics on social indicators for which the Government does not seem to be bothered, she argued.

On the issue of the marginalised groups’ access to justice, Ms. Madhu Mehra, director, Partners for Law in Development, argued that the majority of India’s population remains marginalised with many groups facing entrenched discrimination, violence and neglect, including women, children; Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Schedules Tribes (STs); lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and intersex (LGBTI); persons with disabilities; and religious minorities.

“Discrimination against women continues to be intrinsic to family law, justified by the State as a necessary facet of multi-culturalism. Despite homosexuality being decriminalised in 2009, no proactive steps have been taken to legally protect the LGBTI persons from discrimination in housing, employment, education and other fields of life.” Expressing grave concern at the situation, she said that the State needed to go beyond piecemeal ‘welfarism’ to a comprehensive framework of rights, to fulfil its promise of human rights to all.

Says a UN body ahead of the International Human Rights Day

Bhopal-Promises broken, justice delayed


Author(s):
Moyna, Down to Earth
Issue Date:
2012-12-3

Bhopal gas tragedy survivors continue to suffer as court cases are delayed and government promises prove hollow

bhopal

Almost three decades after the Bhopal gas leak killed a few thousand people overnight, the struggle continues for its survivors. A number of issues concerning the survivors of the disaster, termed the biggest industrial accident in history, seemed close to resolution this year, but none were resolved. Provision of potable drinking water, removal and disposal of the toxic waste from the Union Carbide factory and even a strict apex court ruling requiring the government to provide full healthcare facilities to the survivors were all just promises made in government offices and court rooms.

The survivor organisations have organised numerous protests and wrote letters requesting the India government to withdraw from the Olympics sponsored by Dow Chemical [1]. In Bhopal and Delhi, hundreds of protesters have been asking the prime minister of India to explain why their plight has not improved in the past 28 years.

For officials, Bhopal has become an “emotive issue” and thus resolutions planned and proposed always failed to take off. Though there is a Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation department, most of the decisions require to be approved and executed by the Central government. The main concerns following the December 1984 disaster have been: groundwater and soil contamination, poor health facilities, incorrect count of those affected by the gas leak, disposal of the toxic waste at the Union Carbide factory site, making Dow criminally liable for the gas leak and subsequent events and lack of government involvement in the continuing litigation in the United States of America.

One positive development in 2012 was the official acknowledgement of groundwater [2] contamination around the Union Carbide factory. Despite studies by reliable organisations and laboratories [3], the Government of India and the Madhya Pradesh government have denied groundwater contamination in and around the Union Carbide factory (also see ‘The chemistry of living death’ [4]  and ‘The poison piles up’ [5]) .

Despite the apex court coming down heavily on the government and other agencies involved in providing relief to Bhopal gas leak victims, the government has failed to take any action. In August, the Supreme court, while disposing of a public interest petition ordered better health facilities for Bhopal gas victims [6], directed that standard treatment protocols be implemented and noted that public studies on the disaster-affected people need to be carried out.

The toxic waste lying at the factory premises is another major point of contention. It is to be disposed of by the Central Pollution Control Board and at the beginning of 2012, a German Company, GIZ, was called in to dispose of the waste. After a long debate between Indian authorities and the German agency, the proposal to incinerate the waste in Germany fell through [7]  (also see ‘Bhopal to Germany’ [8]). Vinod Babu, head of the hazardous waste division of the Central Pollution Control Board says: “We are working on the best solution possible to ensure proper disposal of the waste and that is why it is taking time.” He explains that the waste, disputed water contamination and other pollution caused 28 years ago has become an “emotional concern”. “We are required to keep many non-technical concerns in mind while dealing with any issue related to Bhopal gas leak and thus it takes longer than it would otherwise.”

It has been reported that the waste may now be disposed of in the sea since the site at Pithampur in Madhya pradesh—the Centre is routing for it–is controversial [9]. A senior official with the Union ministry for chemicals and petrochemicals, on condition of anonymity, says: “For 30 years, we have been trying to get rid of the waste but every time it seems like we might succeed, some activists protest for one or the other technical reasons we are unable to dispose it of.”

There seems to be no end to the delay. In October, the Madhya Pradesh High Court lifted the seven-year old stay on summoning Dow Chemical—the parent company of Union Carbide [10]. Whether the show-cause notice is ever given to Dow and whether the company actually appears in court remains to be seen. Meawnhile, the numerous cases continue to drag (see Bhopal gas leak: curative petition downplays number of deaths [11]; SC refuses to restore stiffer charges for Bhopal disaster accused [12]  and Union Carbide refuses more compensation to Bhopal gas leak victims [13]).

There has been an attempt to rework the corporate liability and bring the chemical giant Dow Chemical to book. The company has consistently denied any responsibility for the 1984 disaster. But legal experts and activists say [14] the company is hiding behind a corporate veil and is accountable  (also see ‘The Bhopal legacy: reworking corporate liability’ [15]).

The delays and postponements have been innumerable for the survivours and victims of the 28 year old disaster [16]. Rashida Bi of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh says, “I want to hope things will get better and we will not be living in the shadow of 1984 but every time some improvement is seen in the horizon, we are scared it will not come through.” Echoing her sentiments, Nawab Khan of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha says, “The government and courts just talk. On ground, nothing ever gets done. With this kind of treatment it is very difficult to remain hopeful that things will improve at some point.”

In an attempt to bring the big corporate giant to book, activists have even filed a case in the US. But the case was dismissed for the third time in a decade by a district court earlier this year [17]. The activists appealed against this dismissal in late November.

Along with the protests and ongoing court cases to mark 28 years of the gas leak, the Bhopal survivors organisations circulated a charter of demands, titled Corporations and Governments in USA and India must ensure justice and a life of dignity for the Bhopal survivors and their children well before the fourth decade begins (see ‘Charter of demands’). It says the 25,000 people are dead and numbers are still mounting and 150,000 are battling chronic illnesses.

Survivors’ charter of demands

The charter of demands circulated by the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors’ organisations has given two years to Union Carbide and Dow Chemical to ensure that they:

  1. Cease to abscond from justice and answer, through its designated official, charges of manslaughter and grievous assault in the criminal case pending before the Bhopal District Court
  2. Respond positively to the Government of India’s petition in  the Supreme Court and make financial arrangements for compensating actual number of deaths and injuries caused as a result of the December 1984 gas disaster
  3. Set aside sufficient funds for clean up of contaminated soil and groundwater in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory and for health monitoring of the affected population

Two years for the Government of USA to ensure that:

  1. Authorised representatives of Union Carbide Corporation cease to abscond justice in Indian courts and appear in the pending criminal case arising from the disaster in Bhopal
  2. Warren Anderson former chairperson of Union Carbide is extradited from USA to answer charges of manslaughter and grievous assault in the Bhopal District Court
  3. Dow Chemical and Union Carbide pay penalties for the deaths and injuries caused by the 1984 gas disaster at rates comparable to those paid by British Petroleum for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010
  4. Dow Chemical and Union Carbide clean up the contaminated soil and ground water in and around the abandoned pesticide factory and provide for health monitoring of the affected population

Two years to the Government of India to ensure that:

  1. Dow Chemical is not allowed to make any investments in this country directly or indirectly till it accepts Union Carbide’s liabilities in Bhopal
  2. The prosecution agency, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) brings Union Carbide Corporation and Warren Anderson before the Bhopal District Court in the pending criminal case
  3. The CBI through a Special Prosecution Cell does its best to send Keshub Mahindra and other Indian accused to jail for at least 10 years
  4. The Bhopal Memorial Hospital has full facilities for treatment of all diseases known to be associated with exposure to Union Carbide’s poisons
  5. The National Institute for Research in Environmental Health (NIREH) provides treatment protocols specific to exposure-related health problems and carries out medical research that benefits the gas victims and those exposed to contaminated groundwater
  6. The petition before the Supreme Court of India for additional compensation from Dow Chemical/Union Carbide is based on correct figures of deaths and injuries and best efforts are made for its adjudication in favour of the Bhopal victims
  7. It intervenes in the US Federal Court in support of the Bhopal plaintiffs seeking clean up of the contaminated land in and around the abandoned factory
  8. A comprehensive scientific assessment of the nature, depth and spread of contamination is carried out by a competent agency for clean up and assessment of liability
  9. Epidemiological studies are carried out particularly to document the health impact of chronic exposure to contaminated ground water and children with congenital malformations born to gas and contaminated water exposed parents

Two years to the government of Madhya Pradesh to ensure that:

  1. All hospitals run by the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department are adequately staffed, stock quality medicines, are fully computerised and use standardised treatment protocols
  2. Every person known to be injured by the disaster and / or exposed to contaminated groundwater receives a health book that ensures free health care at government run hospitals
  3. Every person known to be disabled or turned destitute as a result of the disaster receives a monthly pension of at least Rs 1,000 as social support
  4. All residents of the communities-affected by ground water contamination are provided clean piped water
  5. All children of gas and contaminated water exposed parents with congenital disabilities receive access to rehabilitation and medical care

 

Read more: Bhopal gas tragedy [18]

 

 

The Bhopal Disaster and Medical Research


Vol – XLVII No. 49, December 08, 2012 |  EPW-C Sathyamala and N D Jayaprakash

The Supreme Court, in its fi nal order of October 1991, upheld the compensation settlement with Union Carbide which made the Government of India liable for any shortfall in compensation or any new claims from the Bhopal gas victims. Following this order the Indian Council of Medical Research disbanded its medical esearch on the long-term medical effects of the disaster. A recent Supreme Court order directs the ICMR to resume that research, but the question that looms is why the ICMR abdicated its ethical mandate and allowed its subordination to a political diktat. Why did the ICMR as aninstitution allow itself to become an apologist of the Indian state?

C Sathyamala (csathyamala@gmail.com) is an epidemiologist and a member of the Advisory Committee on Bhopal set up by the Supreme Court of India on 17 August 2004. N D Jayaprakash (jaypdsf@gmail.com) is convenor, Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti, a Delhi-based coalition of over 30 all-India organisations founded in 1989 to support the gas victims.

The Supreme Court, in its final order of October 1991, upheld the compensation settlement with Union Carbide which made the Government of India liable for any shortfall in compensation or any new claims from the Bhopal gas victims. Following this order the Indian Council of Medical Research disbanded its medical research on the long-term medical effects of the disaster. A recent Supreme Court order directs the ICMR to resume that research, but the question that looms is why the ICMR abdicated its ethical mandate and allowed its subordination to a political diktat. Why did the ICMR as an institution allow itself to become an apologist of the Indian state?

C Sathyamala (csathyamala@gmail.com) is an epidemiologist and a member of the Advisory Committee on Bhopal set up by the Supreme Court of India on 17 August 2004. N D Jayaprakash (jaypdsf@gmail.com) is convenor, Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti, a Delhi-based coalition of over 30 all-India organisations founded in 1989 to support the gas victims.

The 9th of August 2012 witnessed the culmination of a protracted litigation in the Supreme Court of India (SCI) by the survivor groups and their support organisations in the Bhopal gas leak disaster case for appropriate medical relief and rehabilitation. The ­order passed on the writ petition No 50 of 1998 (Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghatan (BGPMUS) & Ors1 vs Union of India & Ors2), directed the Government of India (GoI), the Government of Madhya Pradesh and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), to ensure the continuation of medical research, prepare standardised protocols for diagnosis and treatment of the exposed, as well as provide patient-retained health booklets for recording their medical history and treatment.3 Though the order can be considered radical given the context, as rightly pointed out in the EPW editorial (2012), it is indeed disturbing that it requires a Supreme Court order to direct ICMR to continue research on what is patently their role as a medical scientific body. Why did the ICMR abdicate its ethical mandate and allow its subordination to a political dictate is the story that needs to be told.

The industrial disaster in Bhopal on the night of 2/3 December 1984 exposed more than two-thirds of the nearly 9,00,000 population to a mixture of toxic gases4 that escaped from the pesticide factory owned by Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), a subsidiary of ­Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), a US multinational company currently owned by another US multinational, Dow Chemicals. As was to be expected, the UCC ­denied any wrongdoing on their side but would not part with the toxicological ­information on methyl isocyanate (MIC), the chemical which had been stored in liquid form in the factory premises and whose runaway exothermic reaction was responsible for the ­disaster. In the absence of this critical toxicological ­information, the scientific bodies had to generate their own data for understanding the nature of the chemical injury and develop possible antidote and therapies.

Suppression of the Health Impact

In the period immediately following the disaster, both the central and state governments appeared to be serious about mapping its health impact. The first systematic survey on the exposed population was carried out by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), which had been approached by the Commissioner of Relief and Rehabilitation for the gas victims (Singh 2010). Funded by Sir ­Dorabji Tata Trust (since the Madhya Pradesh (MP) government had refused to finance it), the house-to-house survey was conducted from 1 January 1985 to the second week of February 1985, by “… [a] total of 478 students, 41 faculty members and 13 staff members cover[ing] 25,259 households” (Singh 2010).

Alongside, the ICMR began the process of providing the gas-exposed families with a unique identifying number as a first step towards developing a sampling frame for long-term epidemiological studies. Based on post-mortem studies on the dead which indicated a “cyanide-like” poisoning,5 ICMR conducted a ­double-blind clinical study to assess the efficacy of Sodium Thiosulphate (NaTS), as an antidote to the poisoning and ­concluded,

…the rationale for the use of sodium thiosulphate as an antidote has been established to ameliorate the lingering sickness of gas affected victims of Bhopal (ICMR 1985).

Yet, the ICMR did not follow through with this recommendation both because of opposition from the powerful medical lobby in Bhopal which was heavily influenced by Union Carbide and because of the Indian government’s wavering stand. The MP government on its part decided to suppress the data collected by TISS which had been handed over to it in good faith.

In early 1985, the Indian Parliament passed the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act (deemed to have come into effect from 20 February 1985), purported to prevent the exploitation of the victims by the ambulance-chasing American lawyers. However, with this Act, the Indian state assumed the role of parens patriae vis-à-vis the victims thereby appropriating their rights under its umbrella of care. The Bhopal Act gave the Indian government,

exclusive right to, represent, and act in place of (whether within or outside India) every person who has made, or is entitled to make, a claim for all purposes connected with such claims in the same manner and to the same effect as such person(GoI 1994, emphasis added).

Under this Act the victims had no rights to represent themselves and, though it was challenged in the SCI as early as 1986,6 it was upheld as being constitutionally valid.7 The logical consequence of this legal appropriation of a citizen’s right to litigate meant that the state had the right to medical appropriation as well (Jaising and Sathyamala 1992). Hence, it became the government’s ­exclusive right to determine whether they would study the health effects of the toxic gases, which aspects they would research on, whether they would share the findings with the claimants and whether they would submit the research findings in their litigation against UCC.

With the passing of the Act the changing stance of the Indian government could be discerned, and the victim groups were forced to approach the courts for medical relief. The petition filed on behalf of the victims in August 1985 brought to the notice of the SCI the refusal of the medical community in Bhopal to administer NaTS as well as the lack of adequate healthcare facilities for the gas exposed.8

The Supreme Court then set up a committee of seven experts with three representatives from the ICMR, two from GoI and two representatives of the gas victims. The committee was to examine the detoxification of the gas victims by NaTS therapy; suggest appropriate design for an epidemiological ­survey for the purpose of documentation, and for determining compensation payable to the victims; and to recommend guidelines for the provision of medical relief, and monitoring of the ­exposed population. The SCI, convinced of the need for long-term medical monitoring, stated in their order of 4 Nov­ember 1985:

It is desirable that some independent machinery must be set up which would…carry out a proper epidemiological survey and also a house-to-house survey of the gas affected victims both of which will also be necessary for the purpose of determining the compensation payable to the gas affected victims and their families. It would be necessary for the purpose of ensuring proper medical ­facilities to the gas affected victims.

Inadequate Epidemiological Study

However, the members of the committee, representing divergent interests, could not come to a consensus. In 1987-88, the two representatives of the gas victims in the committee9 submitted a separate minority report entitled “Final Report on Medical Relief and Rehabilitation of Bhopal Gas Victims”. This pointed out the inadequacies in the studies initiated by the ICMR, specifically the long-term epidemiological study, and outlined a set of well-considered recommendations on how they could be improved upon. Though this was submitted to the Court on 30 August 1988, it was not ­taken cognisance of.10

Seemingly in response to this petition, the GoI on its own set up the “Scientific Commission for Continuing Studies on Effects of Bhopal Gas Leakage on Life Systems” headed by C R Krishna Murti (former director, Indian Institute of Toxico­logy Research). The commission’s report submitted to the GoI in July 1987 (publicly accessible only a decade later) was also not submitted to the courts. The 1,000+page report, entitled “The Bhopal Gas Disaster: Effects on Life Systems” commented on the ICMR studies that

..[t]he progress of the epidemiological programme mounted in Bhopal has been tardy and suffers from many inadequacies in the design and in the infrastructure for implementation (Krishna Murti 1987: 11-12).

The report highlighted certain important areas for research:

What is the prognosis of the continuing suffering of the thousands of gas exposees [sic] including a large number of children?
How many of the gas exposees [sic] are likely to be condemned to life-long disability?
Will there be an imprint of the disaster on the progeny of the gas-victims? (Krishna Murti 1987: 3).

It recommended that

… the Ministry of Health with the assistance of ICMR and other agencies creates the requisite mechanism for high level coordination and monitoring of the long-term health studies of the Bhopal Gas Victims (Krishna Murti 1987: 26).

State Complicity

On 14/15 February 1989, empowered by the Bhopal Act, when the GoI settled all claims of the present and the future arising out of the disaster, it was clear that it was not based on any scientific understanding of the nature of injuries or the numbers of injured as none of the data collected by the several scientific bodies was placed before the Court. Due to countrywide protests that followed the unjust arbitrary settlement, the SCI, forced to come out with some justification, in their 4 May 1989 clarificatory order, used arbitrary numbers to provide a mathematical rationale for the amount of money settled for. It was during the hearing of the review petitions challenging the settlement that the victim groups became aware for the first time of the real numbers involved. The numbers provided by the MP government showed that, as of 31 January 1989, i e, 15 days prior to the settlement of the approximately 6,00,000 claimants, only 29,320 persons had been categorised for injury, and of these less than 100 persons had been found to be permanently disabled (partial or full).11

It was left to the victim groups to demonstrate that the process of Personal ­Injury Evaluation (PIE), adopted by the Directorate of Claims for categorisation of injuries, was designed to underestimate the nature of injuries and that by

…inadequately examining the claimants (clinically and through investigations) and by evaluating the injuries and categorizing them with the use of faulty tools biased against the gas victims, the Directorate of Claims, Bhopal, ha[d] ‘defined’ away the injuries of more than 90% of the victims as ‘no injury’ or ‘temporary injury’ (Sathyamala et al 1989).12

With the settlement of 13/14 February 1989, and the SCI’s clarificatory order of 4 May 1989, the complicity of the Indian state became apparent and it was from this period onwards that the victim groups realised that they could no longer depend on the GoI and would need to enter into litigation on their own to ­represent their interests from their point of view.

Through an order from the SCI, the victims were allowed access to their PIE assessment and the newly elected government (the National Front government) made available the ICMR studies on the gas exposed which had till then been held under the Official Secrets Act. The ICMR studies showed the effects of exposure to be multi-systemic, irreversible and progressive; the exposure had affected the immune system, previously asymptomatic persons were becoming symptomatic and there was a grave possibility of carcinogenic and mutagenic changes in the exposed population.

Unfortunately, the victim groups were not able to put up an effective challenge against the civil settlement particularly against the faulty medical categorisation based on the faulty personal injury evaluation process. The National Front government too failed to raise this issue before the Court. However, it was when the counsel for UCC argued on the basis of the numbers provided by the MP government13 and showed, mathematically, using the same rationale provided in the SCI’s clarificatory order of 4 May 1989, that UCC had in fact paid up more than what was warranted,14 that the central importance played by the injury assessment in compensation became clear.

Why Stop Research?

After 3 October 1991, when the final ­order on the review petitions, upholding the civil part (compensation) of the settlement, was pronounced by the SCI, the GoI decided to disband its medical studies. This was in contravention to the court ruling that,

…for at least a period of eight years from now the population of Bhopal exposed to the hazards of MIC toxicity should have provision for medical surveillance by periodic medical check-up for gas related afflictions.15

There was a compelling reason for the GoI’s decision to disband the medical studies. The settlement had quashed all future litigations against UCC and in the event of shortfall in the compensation payable to the victims and in case of newer claims (new manifestation of injuries both in the directly exposed and in their progeny, i e, new generation of claimants), it was the GoI that was liable. It was now not in the interest of the GoI to document the long-term medical effects of the disaster as they were now legally liable to compensate the new claims, if any, and therefore in the same year all ICMR studies were brought to an end. This was also the reason why the victims, even after repeated demands and many legal directions, were never provided with health booklets to record their medical history; for doing so would turn such booklets into a legal document on the basis of which they could claim compensation for long-term effects.

Since the GoI showed no signs of ­re-initiating medical research, the victim groups and their supporters approached the SCI in 1998 for legal remedy. Though the SCI gave several orders16 directing the ICMR to restart the medical research and the health directorate of MP to issue health booklets to record patient history of the gas exposed, they have been largely ignored.

As though to justify the unjustifiable, in a recent report, ICMR is stated to have withdrawn from conducting medical ­research because,

[i]n 1994, after review/recommendations of the projects by the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) and Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), it was observed that the projects had achieved the objectives and were thus completed… (ICMR 2012).

With this statement, the ICMR has cut at its root of scientific integrity, because all evidence points to the contrary. In fact, ICMR’s recent publication based on data from 1985-94, the period after which the studies were discontinued, confirms that in Bhopal,

…cancer of all sites in both males and females showed a significant increasing trend in incidence rates over the years in Area 1 … while in Area 2 no linear trend was observed (ICMR undated: 174).17

While there have been and there continue to be individual scientists within the ICMR who have done work that has been in keeping with their scientific-­ethical mandate, ICMR as an institution has allowed itself to become an apo­logist of the Indian state. The Bhopal ­expe­rience does not infuse confidence among people who live near potential disaster sites about the seriousness and commitment on the part of the government, both central and state, to protect its citizens. With such a track record, the people who are currently protesting the nuclear power plant in Koodankulam are right to distrust the state which has demonstrated that its interests lie elsewhere

 

The unfinished story of Bhopal 1984 #musicalactivism #rap


Dec. 2nd. 1984 was the tragic day when the negligence of Union Carbide led to the Bhopal gas tragedy, an industrial disaster that killed over 25,000 people and cursed generations to a host of diseases and genetic afflictions.

This is a day we cannot dare forget.

So with the vocal talents of rapper Anmol Gawand and the vocals and production of Jackson John joined by yours truly, we bring to you “Bhopal M.I.C”, our song to commemorate this day and honour the memories of those affected by this tragedy.

Incidentally, the “M.I.C” in Bhopal M.I.C doesn’t stand for microphone. It stands for Methyl Iso-Cyanate, the lethal gas that was released into the city of Bhopal on 2nd Dec., 1984. 25,000 dead and still counting.

http://soundcloud.com/alistrap/bhopal-m-i-c-feat-a-gee

 

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