Survivor`s dillemma

  • 30/12/1994

Razia Sultana
I ran away with my husband and 6 children on the night of the leak. But there was no escape from the toxic fumes. My husband was diagnosed stomach cancer and a heart condition. Till his death 2 years ago, we spent about Rs 70,000 on his treatment. Three months ago, I received a compensation of Rs 25,000. Despite running from here to there, I could not get his name registered in the "death" category, in which compensation is about Rs 1 lakh. Is there any doubt that he was killed by the gas?

I am going to fight for more compensation. My battle with the courts has just begun. Also, I will never forgive those monsters in white coats who pretend to be doctors.

Saida Bi
My agony began immediately after the disaster, when I began bleeding from the nose and eyes, suffered from fainting spells and high blood pressure, and developed tuberculosis. Things went worse when I suffered a stroke that paralysed part of my body.

I was assigned the medical category of "temporary disablement caused by a temporary injury" based only on a cursory medical examination. Unlike my neighbour, I could not bribe the doctors to change my medical category to 1, which would entitle me to higher compensation. Treatment at the government hospital was traumatic, where I was frequently put on the floor to accommodate those who had paid extra to the doctors. I also had to make repeated visits to the courts as the settlement date was regularly postponed. Finally, I was awarded only Rs 25,000 for 10 years of agony because I could not pay a doctor to depose in my favour and the judge did not bother to observe my actual condition.

Hafeezan Bi
I am still to get compensation although I was struck blind by the deadly leak. My son, Yasuf Khan, is also jobless because he could not continue to drive his autorickshaw as he, too, was afflicted with eye ailments. I sold all my jewellery and other household items for medical treatment. On top of it, I was forced to personally collect my interim relief every month. When will justice be meted out to me?

Satinath Sarangi
To determine the core issues of compensation -- who must be paid and how much the government has spawned an entire medico-legal structure, a nexus which continues to crush the survivors by linking compensation with the victims' medical records and doctors' depositions. Lack of information on the toxic effects of methyl isocyanate has also added to the problem.

I am also apprehensive about the growing politicisation of the redressal process because the victims might be further exploited for their needs by unscrupulous politicians, even those from the survivors' organisations.

Abdul Jabbar Khan
Convenor, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udhyog Sangathan There is urgent need for locality-based medical treatment by establishing community health centres and dispensaries in each administrative ward, instead of treatment in large hospitals, where opportunities for misuse of facilities is greater.

Although I agree that the disaster has heightened communal and socioeconomic differences in the city, it is the Bharatiya Janata Party government who first sabotaged the process of economic rehabilitation by victimising the Muslim survivors.

Subsequent attempts to extend compensation to all 56 wards of the city, including 20 wards in new Bhopal that were not directly affected by the leak, is creating animosities between the largely daily wage earners of the old city and the influential white collar workers and bureaucrats residing in New Bhopal. I think the survivors are being punished by the human vultures feeding upon their misery.