A Catholic archbishop has joined activists demanding the Indian government expedite the processing of a petition seeking additional compensation for victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. "Even after three decades the survivors of the gas tragedy are running from pillar to post for justice but to no avail on account of politicization of the entire issue," said Archbishop Leo Cornelio
of Bhopal. An estimated 5,300 people were eventually killed and more than 500,000 injured when some 40 tons of poisonous mythyl isocyanate leaked from the Union Carbide plant on the outskirts of Bhopal, the capital of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on Dec. 2, 1984. According to activists about 25,000 more have died since then from exposure to the toxic gas and further environmental contamination
. "It is high time the government and all stakeholders came together to settle the issues in favor of the suffering people" rather than fighting legal battles, which "serve no good for the victims who continue to suffer and die each day," Archbishop Cornelio told ucanews.com, Feb. 26. The archbishop's call came a day after the survivors of the disaster launched a campaign asking for an immediate hearing of a petition which is pending in the country's Supreme Court. It requests additional compensation for victims. The petition for additional compensation has been pending in the Supreme Court for the past five years, said Rashida Bee, an activist working for the gas tragedy victims. "There hasn't been a single hearing yet," she said. Activists like Bee, allege the federal and state governments have been deliberately delaying a hearing to avoid the issue of further compensation. Union Carbide made an out-of-court settlement and paid the Indian government US$470 million as compensation to victims in 1989.