Protecting the workforce
Industrial mishaps are a reality post the industrial revolution. No wonder then that the United Nations warned that 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases each year.
However, despite these alarmingly high figures of human loses no country especially the developing world is taking due precautions and safety measures to curtail the deaths and other industrial hazards.
Any industrial mishap particularly in the developing world is wiped off the public memory soon after the tragedy is over. The same happened to the Bhopal gas tragedy that left nearly 4000 people dead and lakhs of people disabled for life. Though 35 years have elapsed since the tragedy, the victims are still battling to secure justice which includes compensation that has not been provided to them as well.
However, the victims got some respite when United Nations on Saturday listed the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy which killed thousands as among the world’s major industrial accidents of the 20th century.
The report released by the UN labour agency International Labour Organization (ILO) said in 1984, at least 30 tons of methyl isocyanate gas, which was released from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in the Madhya Pradesh capital, affected more than 600,000 workers and nearby inhabitants.
The Government figures estimate that there have been 15,000 deaths as a result of the disaster over the years. Toxic material remains and thousands of survivors and their descendants have suffered from respiratory diseases and from damage to internal organs and immune systems.
The report titled ‘The Safety and Health at the Heart of the Future of Work – Building on 100 years of experience’ said the Bhopal disaster was among the world’s “major industrial accidents after 1919”.
Bhopal, a beautiful city in mainland India is remembered across the globe for the worst industrial mishap of the world.
Post-midnight on December 3, 1984, poisonous gas that leaked from the factory of Union Carbide in Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal killed thousands of people directly. The incident is now known as the Bhopal disaster or Bhopal gas tragedy.
As per official records, the Bhopal gas tragedy killed 3,787 people. The figures were updated by the Madhya Pradesh government later as the immediate official estimate had put the death toll due to gas leak from Union Carbide factory at 2,259.
However, activists fighting for justice for Bhopal gas tragedy victims put the figures of death between 8,000 and 10,000. In an affidavit, submitted in 2006, the government said that the Bhopal gas leak caused 5,58,125 injuries that included approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries.
According to recent estimates released by the ILO, each year 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases (of which 2.4 million are disease-related).
The ILO report should act as an eye opener for the developing world which gives least preference to ensuring security and safety of the workforce.