BHOPAL: Survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy that struck the Madhya Pradesh city over 35 years ago have been hit hard by the coronavirus as 17 of the 20 casualties reported here are from among this vulnerable section of society.
Poisonous methyl isocynate gas had leaked from the Union Carbide factory in the state capital on December 2-3 night in 1984, killing several thousands and adversely affecting the health of lakhs of others who continue to suffer ill-health till date.
As per official data, around 5.75 lakh survivors suffer ailments of the heart, liver, kidneys and lungs and are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus due to decreased immunity levels.
Bhopal Group for Information and Action activist Rachana Dhingra said that though authorities had been made aware of the vulnerability of the Bhopal gas leak tragedy survivors but no action was taken.
She said that 17 of the 20 deaths reported in Bhopal were of gas tragedy survivors, adding that details of the 20th death were still not known to them.
Dhingra claimed that earlier, the Madhya Pradesh government had declared the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) as a dedicated COVID-19 hospital for the treatment of coronavirus patients and stopped treatment of gas tragedy survivors, though the decision was later revoked.
She said that organisations working among the survivors had written to the central and state governments on March 21 that these people were five times more vulnerable to coronavirus infections due to their ailments but the situation was ignored by the authorities concerned.
Bhopal District Collector Tarun Pithode admitted that gas tragedy survivors were vulnerable but said that for that very reason people above the age of 60 and these survivors were being screened at relief hospitals.
He said that hospitals set up to treat the gas tragedy survivors had been authorised to screen and collect samples from patients complaining of fever, cough and cold.
The data on these survivors would be provided by the BMHRC and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute in Delhi.