NGOs working for the rights of the survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster on Wednesday alleged that various governments in Madhya Pradesh and at the Centre have failed to bring the culprits of the world's biggest industrial tragedy to justice even after 37 years.
More than five lakh people were affected and over 15,000 were killed after methyl isocyanate gas leaked from the pesticide plant of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 which was then located on the outskirts of Bhopal.
"We would like the world to know that even after 37 years of the world's worst industrial disaster, justice remains elusive for survivors," said Rashida Bee, who heads the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, and a recipient of the Goldman Environmental Award.
She claimed no survivor has received adequate compensation and none of the culprits had ever gone to jail, even for a minute, till this day.
"Our democratically-elected governments continue to collude with American corporations," she alleged.
Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action alleged that instead of claiming compensation from Dow Chemical, USA, for the environmental damage caused due to the contamination of the soil and groundwater, the Madhya Pradesh government is planning to build a memorial at the global toxic hotspot.
Shehzadi Bee of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha raised questions about the unavailability of medical facilities for the survivors in hospitals.
"The crowds in the hospitals, an uninformed and indiscriminate prescription of potentially harmful medicines, and the helplessness of patients remain the same as it was on the morning of the disaster," she alleged.
Bee also alleged that standard treatment protocols for chronic diseases of lungs, heart, kidneys and the endocrine, nervous and immune systems caused by Union Carbide's gases didn't exist as the government has stopped all research on the health impact of the disaster.
Nousheen Khan of Children Against Dow Carbide said that scientific studies published in international journals show that the health of the children born after the disaster to gas-exposed parents was impacted.
These organisations recently held a 37-day long campaign "37 Years - 37 Questions" directed at the MP and Union governments.
Meanwhile, a state government statement said that a tribute and prayer meeting will be organised for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims on the 37th anniversary of the disaster at Bhopal's Barkatullah Bhawan (Central Library) at 11.30 AM on December 3.
Governor Mangubhai Patel, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and spiritual leaders of various faiths will attend this prayer meeting, it said.
Photograph: B Mathur Reuters