The Madhya Pradesh government said on Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of 102 survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy since its outbreak.
However, some NGOs claimed that as many as 254 survivors of the Bhopal disaster have succumbed to the infection till now, news agency PTI said in its report.
The different death figures were revealed on Wednesday, December 2, the eve of the 36th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy.
The Bhopal gas tragedy, termed as the world’s worst industrial disaster, took the lives of over 15,000 people after methyl isocyanate leaked on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 from the pesticide plant of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) in the city. More than five lakh people were affected due to the toxic leak.
“Till December 2, Covid-19 has claimed 518 lives in Bhopal district. Of them, 102 are Bhopal gas tragedy survivors. Out of these 102 people, 69 were above 50 years of age, while the remaining 33 were aged below 50,” news agency PTI quoted Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Director Basant Kurre as saying.
However, Rachna Dhingra of NGO Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) claimed, “As per the state’s health bulletin, 518 people have died due to Covid-19 in Bhopal district so far. We visited the houses of 450 of these deceased to find out whether they were gas victims or not. Out of these 450 people, 254 were found to be the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors.”
“These 254 victims possessed smart cards that were issued by the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Center (BMHRC), a dedicated facility for the treatment of gas victims. They also had the photocopy of the Bhopal gas tragedy compensation order with them,” Rachna Dhingra said.
“We have collected the copies of the smart cards and the compensation order by personally visiting the houses of these victims. We have even submitted these documents to chief medical officer of gas relief, Ravi Varma,” Dhingra added.
She alleged that the state government does not have a full record of those Bhopal gas tragedy survivors who died of Covid-19 infection.
On the basis of the documents it was established that the death rate of gas victims due to coronavirus was 6.5 per cent, which is more than the other infected persons, she said.
Dhingra claimed that the 1984 gas leak incident has claimed the lives of 20,000 people so far and left over 5.68 lakh people affected.
Four organisations working for the gas victims Bhopal Group for Information and Action, Bhopal Gas Peedit Stationary Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha and Children against Dow Chemicals- demanded from the multi-national company additional compensation for the families of gas tragedy survivors who died of the pandemic, saying that the gas leak had a long-lasting effect on them.
“The mortality rate among the Covid-19 infected gas victims is 6.5 per cent, more than the normal ones as they are more vulnerable because of the ill-effects of the poisonous gas that leaked from the Union Carbide plant on the intervening nights of December 2-3, 1984. Therefore Dow Chemicals (current owner) should give them additional compensation,” the NGOs demanded in a statement.
The NGOs took out a torch rally in the city on Wednesday to highlight the plight of the gas tragedy survivors.
(With PTI inputs)