1989-12-12 00:00:00

Five years after the Dec. 3, 1984, Bhopal gas leak tragedy, victims are still waiting to receive the US$470 million compensation awarded by the Supreme Court settlement last February, according to reports.

The ever-increasing gas deaths in Bhopal total 5,598, according to the latest official count. The government has so far given ex-gratia relief of 10,000 rupees (US$500) each to the next of kin of 3,236 of the deceased.

Victims of the Bhopal disaster appealed to the new Indian government Dec. 3, to annul the "unjust" settlement with the multinational Union Carbide Corporation (UCC).

The Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Samiti (BGPSS), an organization for the protection of gas leak victims, demanded that the government take steps to undo what it calls a gross injustice done to victims in the past five years.

In a statement here, the BGPSS charged the previous Congress Party government with callous neglect of thousands of gas-affected people, and surrender of the nation´s political will to the "monstrous will of the multinational company."

India´s Supreme Court ordered a settlement last Feb. 14, directing Union Carbide Corporation (USA) to pay US$470 million as compensation in the Bhopal gas leak disaster case.

A number of writ and review petitions were filed immediately by several groups, organizations and individuals, challenging the order, saying it was arbitrary, unfair and unwarranted.

The Dec. 3 anniversary statement also asked the government to create political and judicial conditions to annul the Supreme Court order which, it alleged, was based on "unscientific and inadequate data supplied" to the court.

The tragedy, the worst industrial disaster in modern times, occurred on the night of Dec. 3, 1984, when about 4.5 tons of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas escaped from the UCC unit in Bhopal, capital of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, 600 kilometers south of Delhi.

At least 1,000 people died within minutes, as the gas spread over 8 kilometers. By Dec. 5, nearly 2,000 people died and more than 100,000 were seriously affected.

On the tragedy´s fifth anniversary, various organizations in Bhopal, including political parties, held rallies, burned UCC effigies and organized meetings at the gate of the UCC pesticide factory.


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