As the Bhopal Gas Tragedy marks its 39th anniversary, families of the victims, who suffered in India's worst industrial accident, mourn their losses. Meanwhile, the rest of Madhya Pradesh anticipates the announcement of election results, eager to welcome a new government.
The victims and survivors' fight for justice continues even after 39 years of consistent struggle.
“The day when we mourn the deceased, we protest for justice, this time some parties will celebrate (election victory). This is so humiliating,” Balkrishna Namdeo of Bhopal Gas Victim Pension Bhogi Sangathan had said last month.
Referring to the gas tragedy as the world's most horrific accident, he said: “The number of deaths touched a world record on that night. Then how could the Election Commission do it? They could have declared results on any other day.”
What is the Bhopal Gas Tragedy?
On the night of December 2/3 1984, 40 tons of poisonous Methyl Isocynate spewed out of the Union Carbide Industry in Bhopal and drifted over densely populated neighborhoods around the plants.
Thousands died soon after the gas leak started spreading, thousands of others attempted to flee. About half a million people suffered from respiratory problems, eye irritation or blindness and the effects of the chemical leak can be seen to this day.
The final death toll was estimated to be around 20,000.
Call for justice
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of India rejected a plea seeking more compensations for victims of the tragedy stating the issue was “raked up three decades after the settlement”.
In 1989, Union Carbide consented to a payment of $470 million (about Rs 725 crore at the then exchange rate) to resolve the initial compensation dispute. The government, advocating for the survivors, had initially sought $3.3 billion (about Rs 5,092 crore).
Social activist Rachna Dhingra who has been fighting for the cause for decades said: “As per the government data, during Covid-19 pandemic, four times the normal deaths occurred in the affected region due to already persisting infection and health hazards.”
On her Twitter handle, Dhingra posted, "Hundreds of survivors of the Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal today marched with torches to honour those killed by the disaster."
"The 1991 Supreme Court states that the union govt will pay the survivors the shortfall in compensation. Attorney General in 2022 crt hearings repeatedly said that compensation paid by Union Carbide is inadequate. 93% of gas victims have only received 25k as compensation," the tweet read.
One of the survivors Rashida Bibi commented on having the election results being announced on the same day as the chemical disaster. “The winning candidates will play drums and celebrate on a day when thousands of people lost their lives. This is utterly shameful,” she said.
What the Politicians are Saying
Congress politician Kamal Nath, who one of the big names fighting for the CM seat in Madhya Pradesh, posted on Twitter earlier today: “On the anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, I pay my humble tribute to all those killed in the accident and express my sympathy to the victims of the accident.”
Current CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan also paid his tributes as he arrived at Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Researching Centre earlier this afternoon, “Such a tragedy should never get repeated. To make sure of this, there should be a balance between development and the environment. I pay my tributes to the victims of this tragedy."
Jyotiraditya Scindia of BJP said the chemical leak was a "dark chapter" which "ruined many innocent lives".