Bhopal gas: ‘reckless’ decision of ICMR
Posted December 19, 2010on:
The Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan (BGPMUS) and the Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti (BGPSSS), the two major non-government organisations working for the Bhopal gas leak disaster survivors, have described as “reckless” the decision of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to discontinue all gas-related medical research way back in 1994. The research was taken up soon after the December 1984 disaster.
The fact that the ICMR was left with no option but to restart gas-related medical research in 2010 is a testimony to the gravity of the problem that was sought to be surreptitiously buried sixteen years ago, despite the enormity of the problem. As per the affidavit submitted by the Office of the Welfare Commissioner before the Supreme Court on November 16, 2010 [in SLP(C) No.12893 of 2010 filed by BGPMUS and BGPSSS] only 4944 gas-victims have been categorized as suffering from “permanent disability”. In addition, merely 35,455 gas-victims have been categorized as suffering from “temporary disability”. It has also been acknowledged that there are about 2000 cancer cases and about 1000 renal failure cases. In all, the official toll of higher injury cases is just about 43,399.
On the contrary, the ICMR’s own preliminary assessment was: “Out of the total population, nearly 160,000 people present within a radius of 3 km from the factory were exposed presumably to a higher concentration of gas and also perhaps for a longer period of time.” (Source: “Technical Report on Population Based Long Term Epidemiological Studies (1985-1994)”, page 48, which the ICMR submitted to the Supreme Court on 20.11.2007).
The ICMR Report further points out: “It is also a safe assumption that higher the concentration of the toxic gases inhaled, the more severe would be the mortality and greater the morbidity.” Under the circumstances, the two organisations aver, the tall claim made by the Office of the Welfare Commissioner that out of the total 574,376 awarded cases (as adjudicated by the Claims Courts) only 48,694 gas-victims had suffered more than temporary injury (including 5295 dead) is preposterous. The mismatch between ICMR’s preliminary assessment and that of the Claims Courts regarding the degree of injury suffered by the gas-victims is a matter that requires to be thoroughly re-examined by a competent body in the light of the available morbidity data from the various gas-relief hospitals/clinics and from the ongoing epidemiological survey. The problem of second and third generation gas-victims too has neither been assessed nor addressed.
A memorandum submitted by BGPMUS and BGPSSS to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari says: “Even 26 years after the disaster, every day on an average over 6000 gas-victims are forced to visit OPDs of seven hospitals and 17 polyclinics (especially set-up for gas-victims in Bhopal) seeking medical treatment for various gas-related ailments. However, there is no proper medical protocol for treating them and they are merely provided symptomatic relief. Moreover, the bulk of them not only continue to be classified as temporarily injured but also have not been provided with health booklets that record details of the diagnoses that are made by the doctors and the treatments that are provided to them. In short, there is no mechanism in place to monitor the health history of the gas-victims”.