Pervez Bari | Caravan Daily
BHOPAL — On the eve of the 35th Anniversary of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, leaders of four survivors’ organizations have condemned the continued apathy of the governments at the Centre and Madhya Pradesh towards medical, economic and social rehabilitation of the survivors.
Ms Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh said: ”The long and painful sickness and recent death of Abdul Jabbar, leader of a survivors’ organization, exemplifies what almost every patient visiting the state and central run hospitals goes through. Till today there is no evidence that the governments at the state and the centre have learnt any lessons from Abdul Jabbar bhai’s suffering and death.”
“The neglect of the Bhopal survivors’ health condition is evident in the way the Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre, (BMHRC), is run by the Central government. For the last several years the departments of Nephrology and Surgical Oncology remain closed and there are no specialists in Neurology, Pulmonary Medicine, surgical gastroenterology and gastro medicine. Also for the last 7 years no research has been done in this hospital that is run by the Department of Health Research, Government of India. Of the 16 new research projects listed by ICMR’s centre in Bhopal, only 3 are related to the disaster“, said Nawab Khan, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha.
Utter lack of mental health care to the survivors
Citing the commendable work done by Prof. Srinivasa Murthy, an international expert on post-disaster mental health care, in Bhopal, Ms Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information & Action commented on the utter lack of mental health care to the survivors of the Bhopal disaster. “The Department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation of the Madhya Pradesh Government runs six big hospitals with over 4000 patients visiting these every day. Five of these hospitals have not had a Psychiatrist for the last 19 years. The one hospital that had a psychiatrist, had him as a part time consultant for 12 hours a week till he left last month.
Prof. Murthy, who had found 30 per cent of the exposed population to be mentally ill in 1985, discovered to his regret that 25 years later 80 per cent had not recovered from their mental illnesses. He found survivors in Latur, Chernobyl, Iraq and other places in the world to be recovering within two to three years of the mass disaster, Ms Dhingra pointed out.
“Documents we have got through the Right to Information, (RTI), show that of the 104 crores allocated by the Central government for economic rehabilitation of victims, 18 crores have been lost to corruption and the rest 86 crores remain unutilized for the last nine years. And this is when thousands of survivors’ families are facing starvation due to lack of gainful employment. In all 473 women widowed by the disaster have been denied monthly pension since last year citing lack of funds,” said Ms Nousheen Khan of Children against Dow Carbide.
Meanwhile, a tribute to the martyrs of Bhopal’s Union Carbide gas leak was given by the special children of Chingari Rehabilitation Centre in the form of a peaceful candlelight vigil at Iqbal Maidan.
Children with different type of congenital disabilities like cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, muscular dystrophy, impaired hearing, etc. participated in this candlelight vigil. The main motto of this peaceful candlelight tribute was to remember the pain and trauma their loved ones had endured.
These children also want the world to learn a lesson from this tragedy and take preventive measures to avoid the recurrence of any such negligent disaster anywhere else in the world. These children are born disabled due to the poisons of Dow Chemical/Union Carbide and not due to nature. We need to learn from this tragedy and create a world where companies cannot spread such poisons. So that, such disabled children are not born.
Chingari Trust has, for the last 12 years, been taking care of the children born with congenital disorders to families affected by the poisonous gas leak of 1984 and the ground water contamination thereafter. As of today, over nine hundred such children are already registered with Chingari Rehabilitation Centre, with about 170 children coming every day to get physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, special education, supplementary nutrition provisions and transportation facilities – all free of charge.
A peaceful candlelight vigil was also organised by Sadbhavna Trust of the survivors at J.P. Nagar, a slum opposite to the abandoned Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal.