Bhopal Gas Tragedy: FIR Against Activists Who Accused BJP Minister Of Frauding Victims
An FIR has been lodged by Mukul Gupta, the Returning officer of Narela constituency in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, against the activists who are fighting for the Bhopal Gas tragedy victims. The FIR has been lodged in relation with the press conference held by these activists against Vishwas Sarang, the BJP candidate and Minister for Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation department in the state on charges of misappropriating the funds set aside for compensating the survivors, as reported by The Week. Reportedly, the funds were allocated for the construction of 2500 houses for the gas tragedy victims residing near the erstwhile Union Carbide factory.
Gupta refuted the claims by the activists as “utterly baseless arguments”. In return, the activists sought the removal of Gupta as the Returning officer, for making “false accusations and demonstrating bias”.
The press conference
Four NGOs working towards the welfare of the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors held a press conference on November 19. Leaders of four NGOs formed by survivors of the tragedy organised the press conference, during which the representatives accused Sarang of syphoning funds meant for rehabilitation of the survivors. The basis for this accusation was said to be an RTI response.
An RTI petition was filed by Rachna Dhingra, the convener of Bhopal Group for Information and Action with the Department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation (BGTRR). The response to this RTI revealed that of the Rs 272.75 crore allocated by the Ministry of Chemical and Fertilisers in 2010 for the victims, only Rs. 129.50 crore was used by the state government towards its intended cause. Of the remaining Rs. 143.25 crore, Rs 85.87 crore was diverted to other state government schemes, as reported by Newsclick. Dhingra told Newsclick, “When the victims are leading a miserable life even after three decades of the incident and dying due to the lack of medical assistance every day, forced into unemployment and drinking toxic water, the Gas Rehabilitation minister is diverting funds to build roads, drains and parks in its own constituency.”
Rashida Bee, the president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh said that the Rs 104 crore allotted for providing jobs to 1 lakh survivors and children was not used for its intended purpose. She asserted that in the last eight years, not only had the minister failed to provide employment to even one survivor, he was now spending more than Rs 60 crore from the employment funds on public works, ahead of the election season. She added that these public works are already routinely funded by tax-payers money. The activists have alleged that Minister Sarang used almost half of the fund amount for bettering his own constituency, thereby denying the tragedy victims of their rights.