For the survivors of 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, Covid-19 seems to be lethal as they comprise 56 per cent of total deaths due to the virus in Bhopal, till now.
The Covid-19 death rate amongst the gas-exposed population of Bhopal is 6.5 times more than unscathed population. Of the 450 deaths due to Covid-19 in Bhopal, 254 have been of the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, one of the worst industrial disasters of the world.
According to data collected by some organizations fighting for the rights of survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster, the population of the Bhopal district in 2020 is estimated to be about 28 lakh, out of which the number of gas victims is about 4.63 lakh.
Data shows the mortality rate per one lakh population due to Covid-19 amongst the non gas-exposed population of Bhopal is 8.39.
However, the death rate amongst the gas exposed people is 54.85.
About 200 people have succumbed to Covid-19 out of the 23.36 lakh non-gas affected of the district.
Of the 4.63 lakh gas-exposed survivors, 254 have died after getting infected by the virus. Gas victims appear to be more susceptible to life-threatening critical conditions due to Covid-19 as their lung efficiency is already compromised due to gas exposure and most of them are suffering from other comorbidities.
“Going by the state health department’s data, which shows a death rate of 8.39 amongst the non-gas exposed population of the district, there should have been 74 deaths amongst gas victims. But that number is 254. It shows that at least 180 excess deaths have been reported amongst gas victims and those deaths are directly attributable to the ill-effects of being exposed to the gas tragedy,” gas activist Rachna Dhingra told The Statesman on Tuesday.
“It is a pity that it took a global pandemic to highlight the injustice meted to the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster,” lamented Rachna Dhingra, who is the convener of the ‘Bhopal Group for Information and Action’.
Leaders of four such gas rights organizations have demanded that the Union Carbide and its owner Dow Chemical pay additional compensation for the long-term injuries to the gas-exposed people, as evidenced in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has exposed the official lie that 93 per cent of those exposed to the poisonous gases had only temporary injuries,” averred Rashida Bi, President of the ‘Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh’.
“The gas exposed population, which is 17 per cent of Bhopal district’s population of 2.8 million has contributed to 56 per cent of the Covid-19 deaths in the district so far,” she said.
Nausheen Khan of ‘Children Against Dow Carbide’ accused the industrial giant saying, “Dow Chemical has used the pandemic to cut thousands of jobs and make more profit by producing hand sanitizers, but it looks the other way when Covid-19 exposes the lasting damage its subsidiary caused in Bhopal.”
“Dow Chemicals continues to evade the pending civil, criminal and environmental liabilities of Union Carbide in Bhopal,” Khan alleged.
The disturbing data has come out just about a week before the 36th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy which took place on the intervening night of 2 and 3 December 1984. Over 6,00,000 people were exposed to the leakage of nearly 42 tons of the toxic gas methyl isocyanate (MIC) from the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide factory, located in the heart of the city amidst slums and densely populated localities.