Scores of survivors of the Bhopal Gas tragedy along with supporters from different parts of the country and world, today on the 31st anniversary of the disaster, marched to the defunct Union Carbide factory here, the site where toxic gas methyl isocyanate leaked in 1984 killing thousands and maiming lakhs of people.
The marchers who began walking from the Bharat Talkies under-bridge area, were joined by locals, mostly Muslims, who are affected by poisoning of ground water from the chemical waste dumped in and around the abandoned factory.
The protesters smeared mud over logos of Union Carbide and its current owner, Dow Chemicals, seeking justice and relief for the victims even as they demanded that the guilty be brought to book.
Heads of various NGOs working for survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster charged the state and central governments with protecting the interests of the US company.
They said both governments continue to be deliberately negligent towards the medical care as well as the economic and environmental rehabilitation of the survivors and the contamination-exposed people.
According to NGOs, several reports of the Supreme Court Committee for Medical Monitoring have exposed the miserable state of healthcare of the gas survivors.
They said the Committee's reports highlight the lack of specialists and doctors, standardised treatment protocols, quality medicines, diagnostic equipment and system of monitoring health status in hospitals meant for gas victims.
"It is indeed disgraceful that the central and state governments continue to ignore the recommendations of the Monitoring committee," Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, said.
Balkrishna Namdeo, head of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogee Sangharsh Morcha condemned the state government for recently re-introducing loan schemes as a means to provide economic rehabilitation to the tragedy victims.
"Several thousand survivors were given loans following the disaster but it only caused indebtedness as they were not provided steady income avenues.Instead of providing vocational training and placement support, the government is now inconsiderately bringing back the failed loan scheme," he alleged.
Nawab Khan of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha said that the Indian government's neglect of survivors and the generation of victims born after the disaster has been most glaring.
"The Supreme Court in its October 3, 1991 judgement had directed the government of India to provide medical insurance coverage of 100,000 children born to gas-affected parents. Not a single child has been provided coverage till today," he said.
"The Supreme Court and the Indian Government both agree that upwards of 50,000 people have been exposed to extremely poisonous chemicals in their drinking water for up to 22 years but till today there are no facilities for medical care of contamination-affected people.
"Nor are there any facilities for the rehabilitation of the hundreds of children born disabled due to congenital anomalies," Safreen Khan, head of Children Against Dow Carbide, said.
Releasing a charter of demands of the Bhopal survivors organizations Satinath Sarangi, Convenor of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, appealed to people all over the world to put pressure on Union Carbide, Dow Chemicals and governments of USA and India to end the ongoing suffering of Bhopal tragedy victims.
The disaster had occurred on the intervening night of December 2–3, 1984 when the toxic gas leaked from the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant here leaving over 3,000 people dead and thousands others suffering from gas-related diseases.
However, according to estimates of independent organisations, thousands have subsequently died over the years after 1984 due to the ill-effects of the toxic waste in the environment.