#NoMoreBhopal: Visit to the Dow Carbide Factory On the 32nd Anniversary of the Gas Tragedy

#NoMoreBhopal: Visit to the Dow Carbide Factory On the 32nd Anniversary of the Gas Tragedy

BHOPAL: 32 years on, as one walks past the peripheral wall of the Union Carbide Company (UCC) factory in Bhopal, all seems quiet. The feeling you get is similar to walking past any abandoned factory in small town India. Overgrown trees, uncut shrubs, grass and children playing cricket. Nature and children have finally begun to take control of the factory.

Since the dreaded night of 2/3rd December 1984 of the methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas genocide, the destiny of Bhopal has been rewritten by one corporation — UCC. And it continues to be amended by Dow/DuPont. The gas leak, as per survivors estimates, killed tens of thousands of people, in the worst industrial crime known to humankind.

The genocide didn’t end then, the exposure to MIC and other heavy metals has resulted in the maiming of hundreds of thousands of people. Three generations of people have suffered at the hands of Dow, hoping that maybe the next generation of children will not be affected with the poisons inhaled by their forefathers. But life is cruel and unforgiving in Bhopal. Children are still being born deformed and handicapped, shattering all hope.

By this time it is 4.30 pm; I see children sneaking into the factory premises right from JP Colony, which is adjacent to the factory compound. Also it is still one of the worst affected areas because of the contamination due to the heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, etc. As one looks now into crowded narrow alleys, you can imagine how high the death toll would have been. A resident of the colony tells me, many people just died in their sleep; the military had to break into houses to find children and entire families, embalmed by the MIC and dead in their beds.

I peeped in, through a broken section of the compound wall… a neem tree was beginning to stand tall beside an open field. Many cricket matches were being played simultaneously. From this far, all is normal and safe. I stop the next adolescent boy I see and ask him, do you know how many tonnes of poison are under the soil you play? He looked at me and smiled saying, “MIC is not in the soil only. It is in all our genes. We are safe, they can’t poison us anymore, can they?”

Rehabilitation

After visiting the factory, Chingari trust was our next stop. It was the only centre for the rehabilitation and education of mentally and physically handicapped children. About 800 students are currently going to school there. But there are thousands of parents who still wait each day, trying to rehabilitate their children.

After three decades of the genocide, children in areas near the factory are being born with congenital deformities. A recent survey found that 19 out of 20 women had mercury in their breast milk.

Here you see children of all ages – innocent, deformed and maimed. This rehabilitation and education centre is run with the help of a strong team of deeply motivated people. Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla, who have been fighting for justice for Bhopal survivors, oversee the centre.

Speaking to us on Bhopal, Rashida Bee said, “Today India has become the hub for chemical manufacturing, pesticides. In fact, our present government has been courting Dow and Dupont officials during their foreign visits. Still they are absconding. It is very tough to get justice for Bhopal, but we shall continue to fight. As a mother, as a grandmother, I have to fight for the future.”

The final stop, was a free medical clinic run by the Sambhavna Trust, that provides free medical care to the victims of the genocide. Each day, here too, there are hundreds waiting to get medicines and treatment. Talking to some of the patients here, one in minutes realises that most of these people are living each day stretched between chemists, doctors, hospitals and jobs. They struggle because they are hopeful for better days, still fighting for justice, and sadly most of them were still alone.

(Cover Photo: An iconic image from the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. Taken by photographer Raghu Rai in 1984, it depicts the burial of an unknown child killed in the tragedy)

Originally published by the Citizen on 1 DECEMBER, 2016

https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/1/9321/NoMoreBhopal-Visit-to-the-Dow-Carbide-Factory-On-the-32nd-Anniversary-of-the-Gas-Tragedy

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