Bhopal Gas Tragedy: 92% injuries termed “minor”

An affidavit filed in the Supreme Court by the Union Government on 26th October, 2006 has revealed that out of a total of 5, 58,125 cases of injury established due to gas explosion, 5, 16,406 – that is, 92.5% of the total cases – were categorized as having minor injuries i.e. injuries that were sustained only due to the presence in the worst affected area. Another 38,478 cases (6.8%) were declared as suffering from “temporary partial disablement”. Only 0.7% of the total cases were classified as having suffered injuries of utmost severity or permanent disablement.

It is widely believed that such classifications were made on an arbitrary basis without any proper examination of the injuries. Sadhna Karnik of the Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti, has supports this, while explaining that doctors resorted to these means so that the funds available under the 1989 settlement could be distributed to the maximum number of people.

The mis-classification has affected the lives of many people, with many losing their lives due to the lesser medical care they could afford from the compensation made available to them. A victim, Ram Gopal Sharma was categorized as having only minor injuries but he died recently due to the effect of toxic gases. His wife Kamla Bai suffers from chronic breathlessness and severe distension of abdomen, although she too was categorized as having minor injuries only. Even studies have shown that people got cancer due to toxic gases and many even lost their lives. Inexplicably, even they were categorized as having minor injuries.

Study of the toxic effects of the gases conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), have shown that the morbidity rate in the gas affected areas is 22.23% compared to 9.18% in the unaffected areas. These morbid rates are indicative of the widespread permanent disablement which has been wrongly classified as minor injuries in the reports.