Bhopal: It’s been 34 years since the Bhopal gas tragedy, one of the world’s worst industrial disasters, and its victims are still awaiting adequate compensation. Now, with assembly elections just two months away, the first and second generation survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide mishap have announced that they will cast their votes in favour of only those candidates who promise them their due compensation.
On Wednesday, Rachna Dhingra, a member of Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA), said: “Of the seven assembly constituencies, two—Bhopal North and Narela —have 90 percent population of voters who are survivors of the 1984 tragedy.” BGIA is fighting for the legal rights of the survivors.
Other seats in the city, including Bhopal Madhya, have 30 to 40 per cent voters who are survivors of the tragedy. The number is much lesser in Govindpura and South-West seats, said Dhingra.
She accused both the BJP and Congress of betraying the 1984 victims. “Congress’s then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi let Warren Anderson, then CEO of Union Carbide, flee from Bhopal. PM Narendra Modi has met Andrew Liveris, the CEO of Dow Chemical, thrice, despite the fact that Liveris failed to appear before the Bhopal court despite summons being issued against him,” said Dhingra.
Asked why the old city kept electing the BJP and Congress MLAs all these years, the BGIA activist said the tragedy was never made an election issue then but this time it has been. “In the last two months we have held a series of meetings in different parts of the constituencies where survivors of the disaster continue to reside. There is a growing support from the survivors as well as local officials of the two main parties to our slogan,” said Rashida Bi, another social activist.
Five local representatives of the BJP and Congress were also present with the survivors’ organisations to extend support to the cause.
The representatives from five survivor organisations claimed that 94 per cent victims have only received Rs 25,000 as compensation. They demanded that Union Carbide and Dow Chemical (which later bought UCC) ensure a compensation of five lakh rupees each for everyone.
Roughly 5,000 who died in the tragedy got Rs10 lakh each, the representatives said, adding that the impact of the disaster was so great that more than 6,000 kids are still born with congenital diseases. A petition against Dow Chemical on compensation and other issues is still pending in a Bhopal court.
Not wanting to depend only on assurances, Dhingra said they will ask the political parties to write down the promises on an affidavit so that later, if they are not fulfilled, they can be challenged in the court.