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Court relief for Bhopal victims

By BBC News

India's Supreme Court has ordered the government to release millions of dollars in compensation for victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. The court directed that 15bn rupees ($327.5m) be distributed among the more than 500,000 victims and dependants.

Some of the original compensation figure of $470m has already been paid
out, but legal delays held up the rest. Three thousand people died in the days immediately following the disaster at the Union Carbide pesticide plant.

Campaigners say nearly 20,000 others have died from the effects of the leak of methyl isocyanite gas in the years since. The Supreme Court judge who delivered Monday's ruling expressed concern that 20 years after the tragedy the victims had not received adequate
compensation. The court told Bhopal's welfare commission to supervise the distribution of
the money and report back in two months.

It said money should be given out to the victims in proportion to injuries sustained or losses suffered. A lawyer representing the victims, S Muralidhar, described the order as a positive development. "But there's always a gap between the court's orders and the way it is
implemented so we shall keep our fingers crossed," he told BBC News Online.


Under a settlement with the Indian government, Union Carbide - which became a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical in 1999 - gave $470m as compensation for the victims.

Over the years a part of the money was distributed as individual claims were settled. But the remainder was held up due to legal complications including verifying the identity of the claimants.

The Supreme Court has now directed that the entire balance be disbursed among all claimants.
The money has been held in an account in India's central bank where it has earned interest, increasing the value of the original deposit.

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