India may be singing praises of its rapid industrialisation, but the past cannot be buried like the dead. Thousands died that night but the tragedy is still alive.
No one can forget the night of December 2, 1984 – while the country slept, unleashed in Bhopal was a tragedy that still haunts the nation. Stuck in the legal maze for justice, 32 years of struggle has not brought any relief to the people affected in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
The dreadful leak of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas from the Union Carbide plant brought a holocaust on Bhopalis. It killed 4000 people within a couple of days of the leak but the death toll rose to nearly 15,287 due to the lingering effects. The aftermath also led to a scourge affecting 5 lakh people.
Three decades have gone by but instead of justice to the sufferers, a sequel to the deadly disaster is ready- ‘Bhopal Tragedy 2.0’. The effects of 1984 have trickled down the generations and have crippled the brains and bodies of the newly born. Sambhavna Trust Clinic which provides free medical help to the survivor’s health in the toxic area of Bhopal reveals about the on-going disaster in Bhopal. Congenital defects, cerebral palsy and cases of cancer have been reported widely among children. The clinic studied that almost 2500 children are suffering from birth defects due to the exposure of their parents to the lethal gas.
The second and the third generation are at a higher risk than the survivors of the tragedy. But the government does not consider these abnormalities or pay any heed to them. Birth of a child is a reason to celebrate but it comes as a shock and burden to these families. The child’s ailment adds on to their misery as well as the medical care surges their economic instability.
Around 350 tons of toxic waste is lying in the heart of India near the disaster site tainting the water and land, but the government remains oblivious to the conditions. After the horrendous gas leak, the factory was locked up with all the hazardous substances left to rot. The cylinder that was the source of the whole calamity lies discarded, meters away from the factory.
People have no safe water to drink in the tragic city of Bhopal. Life-risking chemicals have percolated down the water and polluted the underground water as well as water bodies. Surveys prove that the carcinogen in water is 1000 times than the World Health Organisation’s limit.
Justice was long lost with the lives of the deceased. The government could neither punish the culprits nor could provide atonement to the victims. Charges of manslaughter were filed against Warren Anderson, the CEO of Union Carbide India but he managed to flee the country. Also, the Rajiv Gandhi government closed the file by settling the compensation amount as $470 million. It seems to be a huge amount but when distributed among the huge number of sufferers becomes meager. Even then half of it is lost in the middle.
Activists protested and burnt the effigy of Warren Anderson and Uncle Tom. They raised questions against the Indian government not forcing the Dow Chemical, who purchased Union Carbide to clean up the site and to revise compensation amount. Since the launch of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, no cleaning activity has taken place on the factory site, raising questions about negligence towards Bhopal. The NGOs and people are protesting for their past, present and the future.