No compensation, no vote: Bhopal gas tragedy survivors tell BJP, Congress ahead of assembly polls
Four organizations working for the cause of the survivors gave a clarion call that they will vote only for the party that will ensure the long-demanded compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to them.
BHOPAL: "Whoever gets us compensation will get our votes" is the call of more than five lakh survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster ahead of Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh.
While the Election Commission of India (ECI) is yet to finalise the dates of the year end polls in the state, representatives of at least four organizations working for the cause of the gas disaster survivors gave a clarion call on Tuesday to the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress that they will vote only for the party that will ensure the long-demanded compensation of Rs 5 lakh for each of the survivors.
Local leaders of the two parties, including Sanjiv Kumar Tiwari, Sajid Ansari and JP Nagar from the Congress, and Suraiya Ansari, Vinod Kulhare, Sonu Manjhi and Narayan Dube from the BJP, are supporting the organisations' demand.
"Seven years back, present CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan promised to do his best to ensure at least Rs 5 lakh as compensation to every survivor of the disaster. Yet he has not moved a finger in the last seven years to ensure that the survivors of Bhopal gas disaster get their due from Union Carbide. This year, candidates for the posts of MLA in the five constituencies of Bhopal district would be asked to present notarized pledges to work for just compensation to all survivors," said Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action (BGIA), on Tuesday.
Rashida Bi, representative of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh, said: "If candidates who present notarized pledges win the polls, but backtrack from their pledge thereafter, we'll take legal action against them."
According to Dhingra, five of the seven Assembly constituencies in Bhopal district -- Narela, Bhopal Uttar, Bhopal Dakshin Paschim, Govindpura and Bhopal Madhya -- have a significant population of voters who are survivors of the 1984 gas disaster or their children. Four of the seats are represented by BJP MLAs, while the Bhopal Uttar seat is represented by veteran Congress MLA Arif Aqeel.
"The BJP MLA from Narela seat, Vishwas Sarang, has done precious little for our cause despite being the minister of state for Bhopal Gas Disaster Relief Affairs in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government," said Dhingra.
In two of the constituencies, Bhopal Uttar and Narela, the gas disaster survivors constitute 80-90 per cent of the voter base, claimed Dhingra.
According to Nawab Khan, the president of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, "Ninety-four per cent of the survivors have got a compensation of just Rs 25,000 each for the suffering caused by the disaster, and today they feel betrayed by both the main parties in this matter."
Added Dhingra: "Congress national president Rahul Gandhi accuses the Narendra Modi of government allowing big loan defaulters, business tycoons like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi to flee the country. But will he also admit that his father, the then PM Rajiv Gandhi, and then MP CM Arjun Singh allowed the prime accused of 1984 gas disaster and the Union Carbide top boss Warren Anderson to flee the country?"
"The Narendra Modi government too has betrayed our cause by not bringing to Bhopal court the top boss of The Dow Chemical Company (TDCC), which acquired Union Carbide in 2001, despite five notices having been served by a trial court in Bhopal summoning the TDCC top official in the case," added Dhingra.
Dhingra added that 5,295 dependents of people who lost their life in the 1984 disaster had got a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each, while the 5.22 lakh survivors had only got Rs 25,000 each.
Around 6,000 children of the survivors, who were born with congenital deformities or are mentally or physically challenged, are a living testimony to how the gas disaster not only poisoned the lives of those affected by it in 1984, but also those born later, she added.