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35 years of Bhopal gas tragedy: Survivors' health neglected, say Activists

The activists said the "neglect" of the BMHRC, set up especially for the survivors, was the testimony to the suffering undergone by them over the past three-and-half decades

Press Trust of India  |  Bhopal 

bhopal gas tragedy
Photo: Wikipedia

Thousands of survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy, known as the world's worst industrial disaster, continue to face appalling lack of healthcare facilities, activists said on Monday on the eve of the incident's 35th anniversary.

Leaking toxic gas from the now-defunct Union Carbide factory in Bhopal on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, choked thousands of people to death while several thousand others developed severe health complications.

The activists said the "neglect" of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC), set up especially for the survivors, was the testimony to the suffering undergone by them over the past three-and-half decades.

"For the last several years, Nephrology and Surgical Oncology departments of BMHRC are shut. Moreover, there are no specialists in Neurology, Pulmonary Medicine, Surgical Gastroenterology and Gastro Medicine departments," alleged Nawab Khan, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha.

"The neglect of the gas tragedy survivors is evident from the way the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) is run by the Central government's department of health research. No research has been done at this facility for the past seven year," Khan added.

He said of the 16 new research projects listed by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Bhopal centre, only three are related to the gas tragedy.

"The MP government's Department of Relief and Rehabilitation runs six big hospitals with over 4000 patients visiting them every day. Five of these hospitals have not had a psychiatrist for the last19years.

"One hospital had a psychiatrist as part-time consultant, working 12 hours a week till he left last month," claimed Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.

Citing a report by Professor Srinivasa Murthy, an international expert on post-disaster mental health care, Dhingra said he had detected 30 per cent of the exposed population to be mentally ill in 1985.

"When Prof Murthy visited Bhopal after 25 years, he found that 80 per cent had not recovered from their mental illnesses. He found survivors in Latur, Chernobyl, Iraq and other places in the world recovering within two to three years of the mass disaster," Dhingra claimed.

Recalling noted activist Abdul Jabbar's recent death, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh president Rasheeda Bi said, "The long, painful sickness and death of Abdul Jabbar, leader ofasurvivors' organisation, exemplifies what almost every patient visiting the state and Central government run hospitals goes through."

"Till today, there is no evidence that the governments at the state and the Centre have learnt any lessons from Jabbarbhai's suffering and untimely death," she said.

Referring to issues of economic rehabilitation of the survivors, Children Against Dow Carbide's Nousheen Khan said, "Documents we got through RTI show that of the Rs 104 crore allocated by the Centre for economic rehabilitation of victims,Rs 18 crore has been lost to corruption. The rest Rs 86 crores remains unutilised in nine years."

She said this was when thousands of survivors faced penury due to lack of gainful employment, including 473 women who have not got their monthly pensions since last year with the government citing lack of funds.

First Published: Mon, December 02 2019. 18:10 IST