Four organizations campaigning for justice on the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal accused the central and the state governments of suppressing a study that could have been used by the victims to bolster their case in courts.
In a press conference, the organizations said they were able to obtain a copy of a study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) under the Right To Information Act. The study could have been used to substantiate the Curative Petition for additional compensation for the disaster, they claimed.
Rachna Dhingra, a member of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, said the documents showed that NIREH or National Institute for Research on Environmental Health had conducted a study among those born to women who were exposed to the hazardous gas that killed thousands of people in 1984.
Dhingra said the study by NIREH had found a high level of birth defects in babies of gas exposed mothers. The leakage from the pesticide factory is estimated to have exposed over 5 lakh people were exposed to methyl isocyanate gas.
As per the documents, Dr Ruma Galgalekar, the principal investigator found that 9% of the 1,048 babies born to gas exposed mothers had congenital malformations, while in 1,247 babies born to unexposed mothers, only 1.3 % had congenital malformations.
“The study costing little over 48 lakhs was carried out from January 2016 to June 2017 following approval by three successive meetings of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) from December 2014 to January 2017,” the organizations said.
The NGOs shared a copy of a document that they said was obtained via RTI and showed the minutes of the Expert Group’s meeting on April 4, 2018.
“Group strongly recommended that this data, due to its inherent flaws, should not be put in public domain and shared at any platform,” the documents said.
According to the four experts, the “inherent flaws” of the study were “various methodological issues, problems of invalidated data and outcome assessment bias.”
At the 8th SAC meeting in October 2018 the members agreed that “as the said project had flaws…the results are erroneous and thus should not be brought in the public domain.”
“If the study design was indeed flawed, how was it approved at three successive meetings over two years? If indeed mistakes have been made, why hide them from people? And why has there been no fresh proposal to do the study properly,” asked Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.
You can see the full documents shared by the NGOs here.