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'Govts must fulfil promise, revise figures of deaths and sufferers owing to Bhopal gas tragedy'

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BHOPAL: Five organizations of survivors of the Union Carbide disaster have condemned the ongoing silence of the state and central governments over the figures of death and extent of injuries caused by the December 1984 disaster.

They announced that if they do not get information on the revision of figures in the Curative Petition by December 26, they will launch peaceful mass action to make the governments fulfill their promise. The Curative Petition for additional compensation from Union Carbide and its owner Dow Chemical for the Bhopal gas disaster is scheduled to be heard on January 10.

Rashida Bi, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh said, “On November 17, the Principal Secretary of the Department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation, assured us in a meeting that in accordance with the Chief Minister’s views the state government will ensure that in the Curative Petition the figure of disaster related deaths is revised.

"We were told it would be increased from 5,295 to 15,342 and injuries suffered by all of the 5,21,332 exposed persons considered to be of permanent and not temporary nature. However, two weeks have passed since documents were submitted to the Supreme Court and we still do not know whether the state government has actually got the revisions done.”

“Following directions from the office of the Attorney General, we have submitted documents in support of upward revision of figures of damage caused by the disaster. However, we are still awaiting confirmation that information sent by us has actually been incorporated in the compilation of documents submitted to the Supreme Court.” said Balkrishna Namdeo, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha.

Speaking against stonewalling by bureaucrats in the central and state government Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action said, ”We met with central government officials in the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and those in the state government’s Department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation in this regard but they have refused to share concrete information.”

Shahzadi Bi of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha said, “We have been patient and restrained ever since proceedings on the Curative Petition began in October. The petition is to be heard soon and if the judges are kept in the dark on the actual damage caused by the disaster, the entire point of the Curative Petition will be lost and justice will be yet again denied to the Bhopal victims.

"We will wait till December 26 for the governments to confirm that figures of death and health damage have been upwardly revised as promised. After this date we will launch large scale peaceful direct action in support of our constitutional and legal rights.” “In October the Attorney General stated in the Supreme Court that his government is committed to secure the best interests of the Bhopal victims.

If indeed the government has kept its promise, why is there such utter absence of transparency? Why does the government not put its money where its mouth is” said Nousheen Khan of Children Against Dow Carbide. Those who were present included included Rashida Bi, Nawab Khan, Shahzadi Bi, Balkrishna Namdeo, Naushin Khan and Rachna Dhingra.