Vikas (11) and Aman (09) cannot walk, speak or utilise their mental faculties. Born to gas victim parents, they are the second generation liabilities of corporate negligence which wreaked havoc in the city of Bhopal on that fateful night of December 2, 1984.
“Initially, when they had trouble in walking, we thought they were weak and consulted a doctor,” says their father Sanjay Yadav (36), who along with his wife Sharda received Rs. 50,000 as compensation. Their sons though, born after the last of the claims were settled in 1996 by the Welfare Commissioner, do not qualify as victims.
“The last I remember them walking was when the elder one was 3-year-old,” says Yadav.
Aqeel Ahmad (29) is “luckier.” Though both his kidneys have failed in the absence of regular dialysis, Aqeel can still walk, albeit with the help of a stick. His feet developed a strange weakness some years back, forcing him to seek help from private hospitals.
“As temporarily injured, I received Rs.25,000 in 1994 and another Rs.25,000 ten years later. The Bhopal memorial hospital stopped my dialysis,” he says. Now, however, he should qualify for the Rs.5 lakh compensation promised for permanent injury. These are just two of the around half a million cases left out in the compensation packages recommended by the GoM in its report submitted to the Prime Minister on Monday.
According to official sources, around 90 per cent of actual victims will be left out of the renewed compensation process.
These include second generation victims, who have inherited health complications from their gas-affected parents. Also left out are those whose injuries have now compounded due to progressive degeneration over time, those who were registered as victims or affected from 1989-1996 and those who experienced complications after 1996, when registration of claims was stopped.
Therefore, only 44, 208 cases would actually be eligible for compensation as per the GoM ecommendations, totalling less than 10 per cent of the total victim count of 5,72,241.
Those eligible include 5,295 cases for Rs. 10 lakh (death), 3,199 for Rs.5 lakh (permanently disabled), 33, 672 for Rs.3 lakh (temporarily disabled) and 42 for Rs.1 lakh (injuries).
All seven survivor organisations of Bhopal expressed displeasure at the compensation packages, which they called based on old medical categorisations and ignoring most of the victims.
“The GoM has denied any additional compensation to 5,21,000 [91 per cent] survivors who received a paltry sum of Rs. 25, 000 for life long injuries,” said Abdul Jabbar, convenor of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan.
The organisation leaders also questioned the proposed Rs.720 crore to be allotted to the State government by the Planning Commission for social and medical rehabilitation of victims.
“More than Rs. 530 crore have already been spent by the State government in the name of relief and rehabilitation, and there is nothing to show for this,” said Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.
Keywords: Bhopal gas tragedy