Victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy protest outside the Dow Chemicals office in Vikhroli on Thursday, demanding that the corporate take responsibility and clean up the factory’s premises, which has stayed untouched since 1984 Swapnil Sakhare DNA
In less than two months, it would be 30 years since the gas disaster struck Bhopal.
As a precursor to the 30th anniversary, close to a hundred men, women and children who have been affected by the gas that leaked from Union Carbide factory in Bhopal on that fateful night (December 2-3, 1984), marched all the way to Mumbai from Bhopal, and are holding protest on Oct 16 and 17 outside the corporate offices of multinational company Dow Chemicals in Vikhroli and Kalwa, Thane.
The after effects of the gas leak have trickled down to the second generation. Eleven-year-old Sana, born much after the gas leak, now has throat cancer. Sana stays in Anunagar, a slum settlement near the factory.
“For four years after Sana was born, she drank water sourced from a hand pump. One day she stopped speaking. She had lost her voice. She was diagnosed with throat cancer. She underwent five surgeries, and though she has started speaking, doctors say she will have to be given (cancer) drugs till she is 20,” said Sakina Bibi, Sana’s mother.
Activists say even 30 years after the gas leak, babies born in the vicinity of the factory have stunted physical or mental growth; problems in respiratory tract like breathlessness, skin diseases or cancer.
Since August this year, 22 affected communities have been getting water through pipelines. “It took 10 years for the Madhya Pradesh government to provide clean drinking water to the affected people. The pipeline project that began in 2004, was grossly delayed. However, many communities staying north of the factory still consume poisonous groundwater as they have no access to pipeline water,” said Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information and Action.
Moreover, since April this year, the state government has stopped providing pension (Rs 1,000 a month) to 4,400 widows affected by the gas leak without assigning any reason.
Even after three decades, the scars of the tragedy that struck on the intervening night of Dec 2-3, 1984 are fresh in the minds of the surviving victims. Kasturibai Kansoti (65), lost three of her eight children over the years after the tragedy.
“My daughter Sunita who was all of one year died immediately after the leak. We got blinded by poisonous fumes. We vomited blood and could not see for close to five months. My elder son Ganesh (25) and my daughter-in-law Narmada (20) died of tuberculosis after a few years. Last year, I lost my daughter Sharada (40) who had contracted uterine cancer. No compensation has been provided for the subsequent deaths of my children,” lamented Kansoti.
It has to accept legal liability in Bhopal.
It must see that Union Carbide appears in various courts in India and the US where litigation are on.
It must pay additional compensation as the gas disaster continues to affect people even after 30 years.
It must clean up the poisons in and around the 68-acre abandoned factory in Bhopal.