On the eve of the 35th aniversary of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, leaders of four survivors’ organisations condemned the continued apathy of the Governments at the Centre and State towards medical, economic and social rehabilitation of the survivors.
Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh said, ”The long and painful sickness and recent death of Abdul Jabbar, leader of a survivors’ organisation, exemplifies what almost every patient visiting the State and centre- run hospitals goes through. Till today there is no evidence that the Governments at the State and the centre have learnt any lessons from Jabbar bhai’s suffering and untimely death.”
“The neglect of the Bhopal survivors’ health condition is evident in the way the Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre (BMHRC) is run by the Central Government. For the last several years the departments of Nephrology and Surgical Oncology remain closed and there are no specialists in Neurology, Pulmonary Medicine, surgical gastroenterology and gastro medicine.
Also for the last 7 years no research has been done in this hospital that is run by the Department of Health Research, Government of India. Of the 16 new research projects listed by ICMR’s centre in Bhopal, only 3 are related to the disaster “said Nawab Khan, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha.
Citing the commendable work done by Professor Srinivasa Murthy, an international expert on post-disaster mental health care, in Bhopal, Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information & Action commented on the utter lack of mental health care to the survivors of the Bhopal disaster. “The Department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation of the state government runs six big hospitals with over 4,000 patients visiting them every day. Five of these hospitals have not had a Psychiatrist for the last 19 years.
The one hospital that had a Psychiatrist, had him as a part time consultant for 12 hours a week till he left last month. Professor Murthy who had found 30 % of the exposed population to be mentally ill in 1985, found to his regret that 25 years later 80 % had not recovered from their mental illnesses. He found survivors in Latur, Chernobyl, Iraq and other places in the world to be recovering within two to three years of the mass disaster.”
“Documents we have got through the Right to Information show that of the 104 crores allocated by the Central Government for economic rehabilitation of victims, Rs 18 crores have been lost to corruption and the rest Rs 86 crores remain unutilised for the last nine years.
And this when thousands of survivors’ families are facing starvation due to lack of gainful employment.
473 women, widowed by the disaster, have been denied monthly pension since last year citing lack of funds.” said Nousheen Khan of Children against Dow Carbide.