Bhopal tragedy: Number of victims still unclear

Even after the passage of 27 years, a consensus between the government and the NGOs on the number of victims of Bhopal gas disaster is elusive.

Last Updated: Dec 02, 2011, 18:36 PM IST

Bhopal: Even after the passage of 27 years, a
consensus -- between the government and the NGOs -- on the
number of victims of Bhopal gas disaster is elusive.

The leakage of methyl isocyanate gas from (since defunct)
Union Carbide pesticides plant in Bhopal on the night of
December 2 and 3 led to the worst industrial disaster in the
world, in which thousands perished and many more suffered
permanent ill-effects.

The two prominent NGOs which are fighting for the rights
of the victims, namely, Bhopal Group for Information and
Action (BGIA) and Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangthan,
claim that actual figure of casualties is much higher than the
official figure.

"Madhya Pradesh Government has put the death toll at
5,295 in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court," said Rachna
Dhingra of BGIA.

But in another criminal petition filed in the apex court,
government put the death toll at 15,248, she said, adding that
it was for the government to tell which figure was correct.

According to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR),
which had conducted a study titled `Health Effects of the
Toxic Gas Leak from the Union Carbide between 1985-1994`,
there were 2,500 deaths by 1985.

Around 3,500 `spontaneous abortions` took place during
the period 1984-1989. "The report further shows that 9,667
people died between 1985-1993 due to the after-effects,"
Dhingra said.

According to her, even if it was assumed that death rate
due to after-effects of the tragedy between 1994-2001 was down
to half of what it was between 1985-1993, and to one-fourth
between 2002-2009, another 7,250 deaths must be attributed to
the tragedy. Which meant, at least 22,917 persons had perished
owing to the gas leak till 2009.

Similarly, the figure of those who suffered
permanent/temporary injuries too was uncertain, she said.

Till 2004, over 3.5 lakh persons had approached Bhopal
Memorial Hospital and other relief hospitals for treatment of
gas-tragedy related ailments, Dhingra said.

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangthan`s convener, Abdul
Jabbar, said that after the tragedy, 15,274 death claims and
over 5.73 lakh claims for injuries were filed, and very few
were rejected.

However, Madhya Pradesh minister for `Gas Tragedy and
Relief`, Babulal Gaur, said the government had arrived at
the death figure only on the basis of medical certificates.

Jabbar said the actual figure must be higher. "God knows
how long the survivors will have to wait for justice," he
added.

PTI