|Bhopal gas victims|
Twenty eight years after the world’s biggest industrial disaster, Madhya Pradesh, central Indian state, has decided to give health cards to survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy.
“The state government will prepare the health cards of the surviving victims within four months through a door to door survey,” said Babulal Gaur, state minister of Bhopal gas tragedy, relief and rehabilitation.
The minister’s announcement came just three days after the 28th anniversary of the tragedy in Bhopal, the state capital, on December 6.
Toxic methyl isocyanate leaked from a Union Carbide chemical plant in December 1984, killing 5,295 people immediately and more than 25,000 in the years that followed.
According to a data compiled by various social organizations fighting for rehabilitation of the survivors, the incident inflicted injuries in varying degree on over 550,000 people.
However, the survivors are skeptical about the government’s decision, saying that mere a card is of no use unless the details of a victim and his/her family is included on it.
The victims also want the card to be a computerized one so that doctors can access information about a patient and his/her case history.
They also issued a 30-day deadline for the government to settle their claims of proper rehabilitation and compensation, failing which they threatened to carry out a massive demonstration in the state capital.
Social activists, working for the gas tragedy’s victims’ cause, termed the government’s decision as “too little and too late.”
“We have been demanding for it since 1985 but the government was deliberately lingering on it to support the Union Carbide,” said Abudul Jabbar Khan, one of the social activists.
He said that earlier when they had pressed for their demand, the government had in 1991 prepared health cards of nearly 50,000 survivors but stopped after it found that these cards gave identity to the victims who could make a compensation claim for their loss.
Since then, the survivors have been fighting a legal battle to get health cards as there is no other authentic document they could produce in court to claim their compensation, he said.
According to Khan, the Supreme Court had in 2001, 2007, 2008 and 2010 directed the state government to prepare the health cards after many were not even in a position to stake claim for compensation and take other benefits of rehabilitation.
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