The Madhya Pradesh government has announced that it will provide an additional pension of Rs 1,000 per month to widows of the Bhopal gas tragedy victims, The Indian Express reported.
According to the state Home Minister Narottam Mishra, the pension is in addition to the social security pension for the surviving widows of the Bhopal gas leak victims.
Narottam, after attending a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, told reporters that the proposal was made despite the finance department's objections to it. He said the earlier BJP government started this pension in 2013 and now, the present ruling dispensation decided to resume it.
Taking a dig at the previous Congress government, Mishra said that the Kamal Nath-led party had stopped the additional pension in 2019. Seconding his views, Rachna Dhingra of NGO Bhopal Group for Information and Action said that the widows of the gas leak victims have not received their pension since December 2019 and said the arrears need to be paid immediately.
"Several announcements have been made in the last one year, but these widows are yet to receive a single rupee into their account," Dhingra told The Indian Express.
She said that because of a lack of understanding of the needs of the Bhopal gas tragedy victims, there is no clarity in the Gas Relief Department's policy.
Scheme Discontinued Previously
However, according to an NDTV report, the scheme was discontinued once even during the tenure of the previous BJP government.
The ministerial committee of the central government led by Congress had approved the pension in 2010. Seventy-five per cent of the scheme was borne by the Union and 25 per cent by the state governments. It started off with ₹500 per month but was later increased to ₹1,000.
The Centre had given ₹35 crore to the Bhopal district magistrate for the purpose. However, the state government blocked payments for no reason between April 2016 and November 2017 but was later revived in December 2017.
Congress-led Kamal Nath government stopped the scheme again in December 2019. Also, BJP's Shivraj Singh Chouhan government did not take any initiative later to revive payments.
Vishwas Sarang, Madhya Pradesh Minister for Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation, told NDTV last year and again in January this year that the saffron party will soon release the payments.
"It was an insensitive decision because Congress only supported the rich...We are trying to start it (payments) soon," he had said.
In March, he said that the state government had even made a budgetary provision and that the payments would begin again soon.
Chief Minister Chouhan had also said a memorial would be built to commemorate those who lost their lives in the tragedy. He also announced the resumption of the pension in December last year.
Bhopal Gas Tragedy
According to the Union Carbide Corporation, methylisocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from a plant owned, managed and operated by Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) in the central India city of Bhopal in the early hours of December 3, 1984.
Government figures stated that five lakh people were exposed to the toxic gas and more than 5,000 people died and several thousand other individuals suffered permanent or partial disabilities in the following days. Over the years,15,000 people have been killed as a result of the disaster. Primary causes of death were choking, reflexogenic circulatory collapse and pulmonary oedema.
As per Wikipedia, a government affidavit in 2006 stated that the leak caused 558,125 injuries, including 38,478 temporary partial injuries and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries. Others estimate that 8,000 died within two weeks, and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related diseases.
The tragedy continues to evoke strong emotions even 36 years later. In the wake of the gas release, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and its then-chairman Warren Anderson worked diligently to provide aid to the victims.
The International Labour Organization has listed the Bhopal gas tragedy among the world's major industrial accidents in the last century. United Nations labour agency, in its report, said that over 6 lakh workers and people living nearby had been affected. Survivors also suffer from a compromised immune system and have increased rates of cancer and congenital disabilities.
"Toxic material remains and thousands of survivors and their descendants have suffered from respiratory diseases and damage to internal organs and immune systems," the report stated.