New Delhi: Government suppressed findings of a study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) that revealed adverse health impact of Bhopal gas tragedy on future generations, four NGOs alleged on Thursday.
The organizations, demanding justice for Bhopal gas tragedy victims, have obtained the report under the Right to Information Act from National Institute for Research on Environmental Health under ICMR. They claimed that if the findings were made public it could be used to substantiate curative petition for additional compensation for the victims.
The report found that 9% of the 1048 babies born to mothers who were exposed to the toxic gas had congenital malformations, while in 1247 babies born to unexposed mothers only 1.3% had congenital malformations. The study, which cost over ₹48 lakh, was carried out from January 2016 to June 2017 following approval by three meetings of the scientific advisory committee (SAC) from December 2014 to January 2017.
The documents showed that when the findings of the study were presented before the scientific advisory committee (SAC) in December 2017 “members expressed concern on the high incidence of malformed children recorded in the present study and raised several queries related to quality control of data", following which it was decided that an expert group would review the data.
According to four experts in the group, “inherent flaws" of the study were “various methodological issues, problems of invalidated data and outcome assessment bias."
The group “strongly recommended that this data, due to its inherent flaws, should not be put in public domain and shared at any platform", as per the minutes of the meeting.
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."
“The documents show that its parent organisation, ICMR decided to not publish the results of a study that found birth defects in babies of gas exposed mothers to be several times higher compared to those of non-exposed mothers," said Rachna Dhingra a member of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.
The NGOs alleged collusion between governments and Union Carbide and its current owner Dow Chemical.
“These documents on research on the impact on next generation of survivors make us lose faith in our scientists and scientific institutions. 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?" Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, said.
“It is ironical that six months after this quiet burial of the data on birth defects due to gas exposure, at a meeting on the Curative Petition for enhancement of compensation for the gas disaster in New Delhi, Supreme Court Advocate arguing for the Petition specifically sought “corroborative evidence like data on effect of Bhopal gas leak disaster on offspring of Gas Victims," said Nawab Khan, president of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, citing another RTI document,
The documents show research on birth defects, but there is no mention of what was done to help the 110 babies who were found to have birth defects.
“We have other documents that show that back in 1994-95, over 70,000 children in gas affected areas were examined and 2,435 of them were identified with congenital heart disorders alone. Records show that only 18 of these children got help from the state government, what happened to the rest? The ICMR and the state government must answer these questions," said Nousheen Khan of the Children against Dow Carbide.