Bhopal Campaigner's Death Highlights Victims' Plight

Article excerpt

Sunil Kumar Verma, founder of "Children Against Carbide" and a dedicated campaigner for justice for the victims of the deadly 1984 gas explosion in Bhopal, India, committed suicide on the evening of July 26, 2006. The 34-year-old activist was found wearing a T-shirt that said "No More Bhopals."

Verma lost both his parents and five siblings on the night of December 3, 1984, when 27 tons of methyl isocyanate and other poisonous gases leaked out from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state. Since then he had been campaigning for just compensation for the victims and punishment for those responsible. In 1997, Verma was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, a mental illness that has afflicted several other gas victims. In his suicide note, however, he made it clear that he was fully aware of what he was doing.

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Verma's act of despair, coming after nearly 22 years of relentless struggle, highlights the continuing tragedy of Bhopal. The disaster has been termed the "Hiroshima of chemical disasters" and is considered one of the worst cases of corporate malfeasance in history. An estimated 8,000 people perished within 24 hours of the accident, and more than 500,000 suffered injuries. In total, nearly 20,000 people have been killed as a result of the incident and nearly 120,000 remain chronically ill, suffering a range of illnesses either as a direct result of gas exposure or from related complications.

Contamination at the leak site remains a serious concern. …