December 3rd is synonymous with The Bhopal Gas Tragedy in Madhya Pradesh. Yet, neither any political party nor any politician has come in support of the Bhopal Gas tragedy victims. After 35 years things are still the same in Bhopal
Kashif Kakvi (is an independent writer from Delhi)
Opinionmakers @The Hush Post, Bhopal: Every story has a beginning and an end. Many sadly do not have. The story of the worst industrial disaster in the world – Bhopal Gas Tragedy – that claimed more than 10,000 lives in December 1984 can be described so.
Death still stalks each house of the affected people. It claims around five to six lives every day. Yet, there is no one to hear their wails.
On the night of December 2 / 3, 1984, a leak of methyl Isocyanate gas from the Union Carbide India Ltd’s pesticide plant in Bhopal killed over 10, 047 and afflicted 5, 74,000 people. This is according to a letter dashed off by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, these are the official numbers, others estimate that at least 15,000 people died within two weeks of the disaster.
After 34 years, even the Minister of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Vishwas Sarang who himself is a victim has not been able to take any measures to improve the condition of the gas-hit. And this claim has been made by survivors.
The survivors are fighting a dual battle: on one hand, they are struggling with the health problems, and on the other, they are fighting for compensation.
After the recent announcement of election date, gas-hit victims held a meeting on September 18 and decided to vote for a candidate who will help them to get Rs 5, 00,000 compensation.
The groups that work for the gas victims are Bhopal Group for Information and Action, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha and Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh. These groups said that whatever promises the candidates make they would have to be made in black and white, so that, the legal action can be taken if they renege on it.
There is criminal negligence in handling the world’s biggest industrial disaster
“We have been betrayed by all political parties, and we have become an outsider in our own home. For us, the BJP is as good as the Congress,” said convener of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, Abdul Jabbar.
There is criminal negligence in handling the world’s biggest industrial disaster. There is no medical support, no financial aid and no plan to dispose of the toxic chemicals which are contaminating the groundwater.
“Our politicians are spineless. Even as 34 years have passed since the tragedy took place, no one stands by us. As a result, gas-hit are leading a miserable life. So, this time we have planned to ask for compensation on notary.” Jabbar added.
With a lump in his throat, Jubbar further said, “How a Chief Minister of a state can sleep when people are dying every minute just a kilometer away from his residence and his office?”
Before the polls, dozens of hoardings and banners sprang up in the colonies of Bhopal gas tragedy survivors. They were seen at Kazi Camp, DIG over bridge, JP Nagar, Shahjahanabad and Jahangirabad.
A hoarding carried a historical representational photo of the disaster, with the slogan, ‘Jo muavza dilaega, vote wahi le jayega’ (whoever provides compensation will get the vote). The banner also claimed that it represented a combined voice of all victims and survivors of the incident.
This time round though the gas survivors front sought notarised pledge from candidates so that in case the leaders err they can be legal sued
“Government and leaders have just ignored gas survivors like they don’t exist or nothing had happened. So, we (Gas survivors front) have planned to show our strength in this election and sought notarised pledge from the candidates those who were contesting from these constituencies because if she/he fails to deliver the promise, we can take legal action against her/him,” said Rachna Dhingra, convener of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, who has been working for Gas survivors for more than a decade.
Spelling out their strategies, leader of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh Rashida Bi said that there are seven constituencies in Bhopal district, where Narela and Bhopal-North host the largest population of victims and survivors. Both constituencies have more than 80 to 90 percent voters with direct or indirect links with the incident. Two major constituencies of the state capital – Bhopal-North and Narela share the largest number of gas survivors.
Bhopal-North has been represented by four-time Congress MLA Arif Aqueel, while Narela is represented by BJP MLA and state cabinet minister Vishwas Sarang. When asked, both legislators have been avoiding questions on compensation for the victims, but speak about looking after medical and social needs.
Battered by fate and ignored by the politicians, the gas victims have been moving on the premises of courts for last 34 years, seeking justice. Yet, the matter is sub judice before the Supreme Court.
But, till today, what they got is peanuts: a sum of Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000 compensation to a survivor. And Rs 200 as stipend, that too through court because politicians, other than making promises did nothing.