A few days after Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh advised people to drink immunity booster ‘kadha’ (decoction) and chant ‘bhajan-shlokas’ in order to avoid COVID-19 infection, an alarming revelation has come to light about those who died of COVID-19 in Bhopal in April.
According to a joint statement issued by various social-welfare organisations working among the survivors, 14 people who died of COVID-19 in Bhopal between April 6 to April 29 were survivors of 1984 gas tragedy.
In a serious indictment of the BJP government, an analysis of all COVID-19 deaths along with the name of the hospitals where survivors died and their ailment-history, social organizations said, have alarmed the state government and Central government but “nothing has been done to save the lives of the survivors”.
The face of the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors’ movement, Rashida Bee said, “No steps were taken by the state or the Central government to address this critical issue of 14 COVID-19 deaths in Bhopal gas victims.”
“14 gas victims have died untimely deaths due to criminal negligence of the governments at state and Centre as special attention was not paid to their medical needs,” said Bee, who runs Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh.
Bee told NH that the number of the COVID-19 deaths rose to 14 as two people died on Wednesday.
She said organizations had shot off a letter on March 21 to several state and Central govt officials, seeking urgent intervention in view of heightened vulnerability of the survivors to the COVID–19 pandemic, but they paid no heed.
The analysis of COVID-19 deaths shows that all were male, all were gas victims and had chronic ailments of lungs, heart and kidney.
“95% of them were above the age of 55 years. Out of 12 deaths, 4 died outside the gates of the hospital, 7 died within 24 hrs of admission and only 2 got prolonged care, which is a clear indication that lack of prompt care was one of the reasons of their deaths”.
Shockingly, none of the deceased family members has been given any medical records or COVID-19 positive test reports, claimed the organizations.
“All died in government hospitals which barely have the infrastructure to take care of so many critical cases. The analysis of deaths and concrete suggestions was provided to officials of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, ICMR, Health Commissioner, GOMP, Collector-Bhopal so that lessons can be learnt and changes could be made accordingly, but sadly it looks like even this letter has met the same fate as the earlier one,” said Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action.
Organizations approached the apex court seeking intervention in the matter on April 23, following which the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee took cognisance and asked ICMR, Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) and National Institute for Research on Environmental Health (NIREH) and the Department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation to ensure COVID-19 testing of all gas victims.
The Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee also asked the agencies to provide super-speciality treatment to the gas victims and directed NIREH (mandated to carry out research on morbidities and long-term impact of exposure-related illnesses) to carry out COVID-19 testing as they have all the relevant infrastructure.
However, in the last one month, the institute has not taken any initiative in screening or testing of the gas victims.
“This is dereliction of duty,” Nousheen Khan, a member of Children Against Dow-Carbide, was quoted as saying by the media.