Bhopal Victims Receive Compensation, Protest Lack of Action by Government

While $327.5 million part of the compensation package paid to the Indian government by Union Carbide in an out-of-court settlement stemming from the Bhopal gas leak may seem like a lot of money, it must now be divided up among some 578,000 claimants.

The Indian government has held onto the money for 15 years, and on Aug. 19, the Indian Supreme Court ordered the money released to pay the claims of victims of the Dec. 3, 1984 methyl isocyanate gas leak in Bhopal, which killed 3,000 people outright and caused another 15,000 deaths due to gas-related health conditions. As many as 500,000 people were exposed to the gas, and thousands still receive daily medical treatment related to those injuries.

When the settlement was reached in 1989, it was to be used to compensate victims for an estimated 3,000 deaths and 103,000 injuries. Since then, nearly five times the original number of claimants have stepped forward. According to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department, by the end of October 2003, judgment had been made on more than 1 million claims, with compensation being awarded but not paid out to 554,895 people for injury and 15,310 claims for deaths.

The day the Supreme Court announced its ruling, dozens of Bhopal victims protested what they called the government's failure to punish former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson and others for the tragedy. The protestors, who burned an effigy of Anderson, want him extradicted to India to stand trial. Last year, India agreed last year to press for the extradition of Andersonon charges of "culpable homicide not amounting to murder."

In June, the U.S. Justice Department rejected the extradition request on procedural grounds. Anderson is now 82 years old.

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