Gas victims’ apprehension on Bhopal Hospital
Posted October 8, 2011on:
There seems to be a conspiracy to hand over the management of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which had been deeply involved with the victims of the 1984 MiC gas leak disaster from the very beginning but had later ignominiously abandoned all its activities midstream. If that happens, as the survivors apprehend, it will further expose the fraud and deceit perpetuated by the Union government on the victims of the disaster from the time of Rajiv Gandhi.
The group of ministers (GoM) on Bhopal gas leak disaster, which had met in the latter part of June last year, had discussed in some detail the affairs of the BMHRC , which was set up by the Union Carbide in pursuant to various orders of the Supreme Court. The Hospital is managed by the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust (BMHT), created by the Union Carbide. A M Ahmadi was rewarded with the chairmanship of the BMHT on his retirement as the Chief Justice of India for diluting the charges against the Union Carbide officials (‘without jurisdiction’, as the present Chief Justice, S H Kapadia, had observed during the hearing of the curative petition). The BMHT has a corpus which had grown to Rs 436 crore as on 31.3.2009, the GoM had noted.
Ahmadi had managed the Hospital with the same degree of dishonesty as he had displayed in his 1996 judgement to help the culprits of the gas leak disaster. That he squandered the money on his personal whims is only one aspect. The gas leak survivors, for whose sake the Hospital was specifically directed by the Supreme Court to be built, were treated in a cavalier manner while the preference was given to the influential and rich, paying patients.
The minutes of the GoM meeting say: “After reviewing the state of affairs relating to health and health-related matters and finding that the picture is very disappointing, GoM recommends the following 😦 i) The GOI may approach the Supreme Court to allow takeover of the BMHRC by the Government of India through the Department of Bio-Technology and the Department of Atomic Energy. The hospital can then be strengthened, upgraded and run as a super-speciality and research hospital. The State Government has no objection to this.”
Later addressing a Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) meeting, party president Sonia Gandhi referred to the Bhopal gas tragedy and observed that there had been “inadequacies in how successive governments” had dealt with this calamity. She added that a ministers’ group had prepared an “agenda for action on the Bhopal gas tragedy” under which compensation for victims was increased, medical facilities were being strengthened, review of judicial decisions was being sought and waste disposal, decontamination and remediation activities were being finalised. (Will she try to find out from non-government sources how much of this agenda has been truly implemented?)
Following the approval of the Supreme Court, the Atomic Energy Department, had taken over the management of the BMHRC in September last year. Its officials had started consultations with the groups of employees of the BMHRC as well as the representatives of the gas disaster survivors to acquaint themselves with the problems and shortcomings at the BMHRC. The Department had even announced in March this year that the employees of the BMHRC would be given the benefit of the sixth pay commission and the vacant posts of the doctors would be filled—some of these posts have been lying vacant for over a year.
The reported move of the government to hand over the BMHRC to the ICMR, instead, has upset the survivors’ representatives who describe it as a betrayal of the gas victims by the government. Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan (BGPMUS) convener Abdul Jabbar feels that the decision to entrust the BMHRC to the ICMR must have been with the consent of the Prime Minister as the Department of Atomic Energy is directly under the Prime Minister.
Jabbar has grave doubts about the sincerity of the ICMR so far as the Bhopal gas victims are concerned. He said that the GoM, when it had recommended that the Atomic Energy Department should be entrusted with the management of the BMHRC, had also asked the ICMR to restart research on gas victims but its laboratory had not become functional so far; the ICMR chairman is also the chairman of the advisory committee formed by the Supreme Court for gas relief hospitals but the committee had hardly functioned. Moreover, the ICMR had suddenly abandoned the research on medical implications of MiC gas leak exposure which had caused the disaster.
The BGPMUS plans a demonstration in Delhi on October 10 to protest against the move to hand over the BMHRC to the ICMR and present a memorandum to the Prime Minister to seek his intervention in the matter. Jabbar has also written a letter to AICC general secretary and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh to strive at his level to get this move stopped.