Bhopal, Oct 10 (IANS) Gas-hit areas in the Madhya Pradesh capital have seen a sharp rise in the number of private medical practitioners in the past two decades.
Over 3,000 people were killed when 40 tonnes of lethal MIC gas leaked out of Union Carbide's pesticide plant in December 1984. To this day, residents exposed to the lethal gas have been suffering from respiratory and other ailments.
The number of private nursing homes and clinics in gas-hit areas has shot up from 60 to 260 in just two decades. The costly treatments have drained the victims of the gas tragedy both economically and emotionally.
'The compensation of Rs.50,000 each for the gas victims is little when compared to their huge medical bills,' says Abdul Jabbar, an activist, and convenor of THEpal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan.
Mohan Lal, 42, has been suffering from respiratory disorders for over 22 years.
'It's been so many years, but it looks we'll never get well again.'
Lal used to earn Rs.6,000 a month by selling spices till the tragedy struck. But it is difficult for him to perform physical labour now. He has sold his two ancestral homes for Rs.350,000 to sustain his family of five.
'All the money goes into paying medical bills. Still we do not keep well,' he rued.
There are thousands who are suffering like Mohan Lal.
The 'irrational' course of treatment has been condemned by activists. Apart from the respiratory system, neurological, reproductive and immune systems of the gas victims have also been affected. Cases of tuberculosis here are four times higher than the national average.
To add to their woes victims have been plagued by widespread corruption.
More than 70 percent of government doctors serving them have clinics of their own. And the patients are encouraged to see the doctors at their clinics, a report on the gas victims points out.
'In 1996, International Medical Commission on Bhopal charged Union Carbide with concealing information on chemicals that leaked. Even now many synergistic health impacts of the toxic gases are not known,' claims Satinath Sarangi, an activist who runs Sambhavna Clinic for the victims.
A Fact Finding Mission report released on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the tragedy also pointed out that in 72 percent cases patients are being given useless or harmful drugs and 53 percent patients are unsatisfied with the course of treatment.
The study also found many untreated mental illnesses linked to the disaster.
'In the 9/11 case, a compensation of Rs.80 million per head was given in less than a year. But the Indian government has neglected the victims. Even in a government-sponsored scheme, only 80 gas-hit women have got a job,' Jabbar said.