Thousands of Bhopal victims are yet to get promised help

On December 3, 1984, when a cloud of lethal methyl isocyanate gas leaked from Union Carbide's pesticide plant in the city, Samina Khan was barely three years old.

This weekend, Bhopal residents marked the 27th anniversary of the tragic night when the world's worst-ever industrial accident condemned so many among them to lives of never-ending pain. People numbering 3,787 are officially admitted to have died as a direct consequence of the gas leak; several thousand others are estimated to have been killed by illness attributable to the toxic exposure. In 2006, the government said 5,58,125 people were injured, 3,900 of them severely.

Samina, now 30, is one of those people. She continues to struggle with total renal failure. In January this year, there appeared to be a change in things. Her mother agreed to donate a kidney for transplant surgery; Mohammad Nafees, her brother, happily sold off his shop six months ago to raise part of the money for the operation. The rest, he hoped, would come from Rs.2 lakh promised as compensation to Samina, and to others like her, by a Group of Ministers led by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. But it hasn't come yet — and though Nafees remains obstinately hopeful, it never may. There are over 9,000 applications for compensation from gas victims affected with cancer and total renal failure, or TRF — applications the State government concedes are legitimate. The Ministers had, however, allotted funds only for 2,000 cancer and 1,000 TRF cases.

“We are doing the best we can,” says B.B. Shrivastava, Additional Commissioner responsible for gas relief and welfare, “with what we have.” The compensation arrived at by the GoM was based on tentative figures and so we have written to them about including all the 9,720 applications, which are legitimate.”

Mr. Shrivastava says his office has already identified 1,500 beneficiaries for cancer treatment, and disbursed funds to about 500 of them.

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