Bhopal Gas Tragedy Survivors: Denied Pensions, Widows Struggle for Support

Widows who were victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy receive a pension of one thousand rupees from the Madhya Pradesh Gas Relief Department. However, the pension has not been credited to their accounts for the last two months.
Bhopal Gas Tragedy Survivors: Denied Pensions, Widows Struggle for Support

Bhopal- Over five thousand widows, victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, have not received their pension for the past two months. The beneficiaries visit their banks almost every day but leave disappointed. This is not the first instance of pension delays; it has occurred multiple times over the past five years. The number of widowed women affected by the gas leak is increasing, but they are not receiving the pension benefits timely.

Widows who were victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy receive a pension of one thousand rupees from the Madhya Pradesh Gas Relief Department. However, the pension has not been credited to their accounts for the last two months. Earlier, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the pension of Rs 1,000 per month for gas-affected widows was delayed for one and a half years. Even after the gas victims' movement, arrears of the old pension amount were not provided.

Speaking with The Mooknayak, Munni B, a resident of Bluemoon Colony near Union Carbide and a victim of the Bhopal gas tragedy, shared her plight. She revealed that despite visiting the bank daily over the past week, her pension amount has not been credited to her account for the last two months. Munni recounted the tragic death of her husband 16 years ago, a consequence of kidney expansion due to the gas's impact. For the past nine years, she has been receiving the gas victim widow pension, although there have been instances where the pension was stopped earlier.

Munni B, a mother of five children, including a 24-year-old daughter and a 22-year-old son with a disability from birth, emphasized the impact of the gas on her family. She expressed that the gas exposure has left her two children handicapped since birth. Despite the challenges, Munni highlighted the importance of the one thousand rupees pension in providing relief for household expenses. Her elder son, working as a laborer, contributes to running the household with whatever he earns.

Zainab Bi, residing in JP Nagar, shared her distress, stating that the government had previously halted the pension for one and a half years. Even when the pension was resumed, the due amount for one and a half years was not disbursed. Currently, the pension has not been credited for the last two months, leaving uncertainty about whether it will be received or not.

Rachna Dhingra, the director of Bhopal Group for Information and Action, an organization dedicated to working for the gas victims, emphasized that the recurrent issue of pension interruptions is not new. She said, the officials of the Gas Relief Department have been apprised of the situation, they have assured that the pension will be disbursed soon.

Exclusion and Neglect: Gas-Affected Widows Denied Pension Benefits Despite Increasing Numbers

The number of gas-affected widows is continuously increasing, and despite their eligibility for pension benefits, they are not receiving the assistance. Many families of gas tragedy victims are grappling with serious diseases, and deaths due to these illnesses are consistently reported. Shockingly, the widows of these deceased victims are being denied pension benefits.

The pension benefits are currently extended only to those who were initially registered in the early stages of the pension scheme. New individuals have not been added to the list of pension beneficiaries. Efforts were made to contact Madhya Pradesh Government's Gas Relief Minister Kunwar Vijay Shah for updates on the pending pension amount, but unfortunately, no response was received. Subsequent attempts to reach Bhopal Gas Relief and Rehabilitation Department Director Rakesh Srivastava were also unsuccessful, as he did not answer the phone, and messages sent seeking information on pensions went unanswered.

Lingering Shadows of a Nightmarish Night

In 1984, the night of December 2 marked an unforgettable tragedy in Bhopal. The deadly leakage of poisonous gas from the Union Carbide factory claimed thousands of lives as people peacefully slept. The aftermath was catastrophic, with a death toll exceeding 16,000. The repercussions of this disaster extend beyond mortality, haunting the survivors who continue to suffer from the enduring effects of the toxic gas.

The survivors, numbering nearly half a million, grappled with respiratory problems, eye irritation, blindness, and various other afflictions caused by exposure to the lethal gas. The tragedy's impact transcended generations, with children born in Bhopal after the incident facing disabilities and illnesses. This distressing trend persists, with new generations born with abnormalities in the affected areas, painting a grim picture of the ongoing consequences of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

Translated by Geetha Sunil Pillai

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