Bhopal: The struggle goes on
It's been 19 years since the Lethal Methyl Isocyanate gas from Union Carbide (now Dow Chemicals) struck disaster at Bhopal, the worst ever industrial havoc in the history of mankind. Images such as the one here had shook the whole world as more than 20 thousand peopel have lost their lives and more than a lakh suffer from the after-effects of the poisen. I remember that most of the area of new Govindpura where we lived then was unaffected but most of the old Bhopal was. It was a panicky morning the following day. The adjoining main road near our BHEL colony house was brimming with people fleeing with whatever little they could gather with them, on trucks, tractors and what not. My father had meanwhile managed to get some bread and butter from the grocery and we were planning to leave too when the radio started reassuring people that the danger has been partially averted. And while the then CM Arjun Singh was said to be on the spot while the containers were neutralized later at Carbide factory, a similar exodus occurred on that day too. I was too young then to decipher the ground situations. 19 years hence the realities have not really changed.
In almost two decades of victim's struggle for the justice people have been left hopeless with hundreds loosing their life every year owing to eye, lung and heart problems. The case of the gas victims has been one of callous delays and wrangling between Indian and US courts over damages and medical care. Media reports say that after 1992 the government had stopped registering death cases owing to the gas-leak. There are a staggering 50 thousand cases pending with Rs.1500 crores of relief money languishing under the greedy eyes of the bankrupt state government. A local newspaper has recently said a very valid thing about our “East India company mentality”. The kins of WTC disaster have reportedly been compensated with amounts exceeding Rs.8 crores per casualty within the time span of a year, on the contrary there is the case of Bhopal disaster where the victims have been fighting for meager compensation amounts of Rs.1 lacs or less. In the light of global consumerism and open markets it seems the commercial concerns override those for human feelings. The central government is bothering about investments from big corporations and bowing under the pressures of the centres of money and power at the US for their own selfish motives while the state government wants to pocket the whole settlement amount using the middlemen and burocratic red tape.
I can only hope that such a disaster should never ever happen again. This TOI report, that says that “..with growing public awareness, corporates otherwise indifferent to damage caused to the environment and human lives (are) now taking corrective measures.” adds some strength to my belief.
You are absolutely right Manish! Both the State/Central governments have been callous in their approach and the whole settlement money (except for the sole good deed of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital) seems to have been swallowed by the dalaals midway.
Having lived in Bhopal during the time of Gas tragedy,I remember very well hordes of people coming over to our area which was at the other end of the city. Infact govt. had even put up camps for people to stay on empty grounds in our area.
Regarding compensation I would like to point out that where the poor victims were left struggling well off people in parts like Arera Colony( which were no way affected) were got the money in connivance with corrupt bureaucrats.