Bhopal gas tragedy:Our wounds, still fresh
Do we really care for all our fellow beings? Do our lawmakers have a sight to think about the problem what we face as common human beings of a country? Does the moral of corporate sector has any conscience to abide the morality? Does the character of poverty and corruption does not let the truth prevails in its wisdom?
I was accustomed with these questions on a very cruel day of history, the second of December. In the night of 2nd to 3rd December a tragedy curtailed its breadth in the Indian city of Bhopal, where a poisonous gas leaked to swallow thousands of Indians, unknown Indians.
Still the wound of the tragedy has not been filled, people still remember the night when a historical disaster happened in this sleepy city. How they could have forgotten the misery, which showed a way for politician of India to work on but they never.
The infamous Union Carbide factory was located just very near from the center of the city where the tragedy would have not taken any other shape.
I visited the place last month and tried to figure out some survivors, to talk with their bloody history in which not only theirsiblings and relatives died but also a future in which their children wanted to breathe.
I talked with a teacher whose name is Shashi Dhar, now aged 67, retired, who was there the night when the disaster leaped the future of Bhopal city.
He remembered in the night how, when he got up, he saw hundreds of thousands of people suffering by the effect of the poisonous gas, he too felt irritated in his eyes. When later he was trying to escape from the city, he saw that the dead bodies were lying everywhere and that the city it self became a mortuary. Cremations were held at large and bodies were burned altogether. There was no cast to hide the dead bodies; men and women were cremated in groups without any knowledge of there past castes and families. Sometimes cremations were done by of biggest Indian clan known as unknown social worker, where no survivors were remain to do the last rite of those who died.
The face of Shashi Dhar darkens as he recalled the past of his lives where he himself lost several of his friends. He was in the city that day for finishing his official duties, he hailed from Jabalpur.
25 years after the tragedy, still the victims who survived are reaping the worst part of it. The survivors are having several health problems: eye problems, respiratory difficulties, immune and neurological disorders, cardiac failure secondary to lung injury, female reproductive difficulties, and birth defects among children born to affected women.
The remains of the past are still fresh and green; millions of people who survived never got any compensation by the cruelcompany and immoral government who gave the permission to set the factory.
Still lots of people are left without compensation; and the compensation, which was given, was too small to cover anything.
Like most of the shortcoming, this tragedy has its own path of short coming too. After the accident, no one under the age of 18 was registered. The number of children exposed to the gases was at least 200,000. Widow pension of the rate of Rs 200/per month (later Rs 750) was provided. One-time ex-gratia payment of Rs 1,500 to families with monthly income Rs 500 or less was decided. Each claimant was to be categorized by a doctor. In court, the claimants were expected to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that death or injury in each case was attributable to exposure. In 1992, 44 percent of the claimants still had to be medically examined. From 1990 interim relief of Rs 200 was paid to everyone in the family who was born before the disaster
A country which learns from its past does retain the notion to create a fresh start, but India seems to never learn from its past.
Even after Bhopal, misery is still there and several companies creating toxic material do exist in the proximity of cities, damaging the cities internal water aquifers, rivers and natural watercourses.
Disasters could be stopped, if we could have a thought to our planning and the purpose of companies for the growth of a nation. Bhopal disaster has so much to say and when it says there is hardly anyone except politicians and corporate who could not move.
It is estimated that after the disaster 50,000 people needed alternative jobs, and that less than 100 gas victims have found regular employment under the government's scheme
The story tells something else to us: 2,486 flats in two- and four-story buildings were constructed in the "Widows colony" outside Bhopal. The water did not reach the upper floors. It was not possible to keep cattle. Infrastructure like buses, schools, etc. was missing for at least a decade.
These are the results where corporations and politicians lost their will to act, to act upon the misery which took not only the lives of people, it did take off their trust in the nation too.
Still in India, when the companies producing toxic chemicals or even those who just produce awful lot of bi-products do not clean up their sites, it is left to contaminate local water sources and soil. Day by day, villagers and the local population who have been living in the sites before the corporate came to settle down the factory are suffering heavily by the unethical production. Law cannot make oneself truthful, it is the duty of us to be honest towards the fellow human beings.
Of course the law exist but morality to do so does not.
The disasters have no human face, and its not man-made said Chinese author Xui nia in 6th century. But, after the disastereverything is man made. If we could find the will to act on, we could make a difference, if we cannot, we could never make a difference.
The difference comes with education too; this is one of the best points to address the problem within the consciousness of the people who are the victims of any disaster.
The ruling authorities have paid such a little attention on the education of public towards pollution and ecological tragedies and that we can wonder how to overcome the problems generated by corporate for mere profit when bureaucrat does not give the authoritative views. New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on December 29, 2007 said mining was causing displacement, pollution, forest degradation and social unrest. The CSE released its 356-page sixth State of India’s Environment report, ‘Rich Lands Poor People, is sustainable mining possible?’ According to the Centre for Science and Environment, amongst the top 50 mineral producing districts, 34 fall under the 150 most backward districts identified in the country.
Any sort of challenges could be only met when public’s awareness towards the industrial growth and their effect should beincreased. It is not only going to stress the point of their existence but also how to deal with them after their production is ceased to exist and cleaning up is not done? This is the nature of industrial existence in India.
This happened with Union carbide too. Still the junk of poison is left in the company premise, which is open to pollute the adjoining areas by air and water, and left to create some more wound to the public.
Neither government nor Union Carbide (formerly), now Dow chemical company ever thought to clean up the mess of these toxic pollutants that are in dimly situation there.
Socrates said, “ The governance is about people welfare but if it can not govern them it is better to uproot it”. I would say, the governance is about welfare, and government is about public welfare and if a government has failed to do so it just says that the democracy has failed.
India seems to be a democracy by the procedure but actually it has never been democratic; or why the wounds of suffering still remain fresh in Bhopal and elsewhere?
Revolt is not the solution to change, I ask for our education towards the bodies that are governing us.