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Updated: July 20, 2012 12:25 IST

No let-up

Bharat Dogra
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For justice: A Bhopal gas tragedy survivor. Photo: A.M. Faruqui
The Hindu For justice: A Bhopal gas tragedy survivor. Photo: A.M. Faruqui

Bhogal gas victims continue to suffer health hazards

Even after 27 years and investment of billions of rupees in medicare, the health problems of Bhopal gas victims are increasing instead of decreasing. This is partly due to the amazing persistence of adverse health effects of the poison gas, and due to transfer of these adverse effects to the next generation. Shocking levels of corruption, inefficiency and irresponsibility in the health infrastructure created for Bhopal gas tragedy victims compound the problems. Whatever maybe the cause, for many families affected by Bhopal gas tragedy of December 1984, there are no signs of hope for a better life, feel families residing in J.P. Nagar in Bhopal.

Sanjay Yadav's entire life has been devastated by the gas tragedy. He was a 12-year boy when the gas tragedy took place. At that early age he developed serious breathing and eye problems which persist to this day. He can walk for only a short distance. He has difficulty in digesting food. Battling health problems all his life, he could at best get a low-paid shop assistant's job on which a big family has to survive.

Sanjay's wife Sharda is also from a gas affected family. She has constant headaches and a burning sensation in eyes. Her physical as well as mental health has been badly affected. Her nose bleeds daily.

Sanjay and Sharda have two sons Vikas and Aman who are badly disabled both mentally and physically. Although they are in the age group of 5 to 10 years, their daily needs such as toilet have to be attended to by family elders. Sanjay’s constant worry is what will happen to the children after him.

Sanjay's younger sister Shashi died a short time after the gas tragedy. Another sister Aarti suffered badly and her small son has a hole in his heart. Another sister Rani suffered from many gas-related problems and her husband left her. She now lives with Sanjay, while also earning a living with great difficulty.

His parents too suffered a great deal of health problems. Three generations of this family live together and share each other's sorrows. Meagre compensation money was used mainly to pay back accumulating debts. But health problems are increasing well into the next generation, and so are medical bills. "How will we pay back the new debts," Sanjay asks with desperation.

Haliman Bi and Abdul Rehman, around 60, sit in their room and wait for death. It is as cruel and blunt as this. Haliman, who is suspected to have cancer, is nothing but a bundle of bones and so weak that she can collapse any moment. Abdul Rehman has not been able to walk after a paralytic attack. There was a time when Rehman was a young tonga (horse-carriage) driver who ferried passenger to and from Bhopal railway station. Haliman was the doting mother of several small children, who were born with deformities and died soon after birth.

Victims like Sanjay Yadav and Haliman Bi urgently need a system of adequate monthly pensions in addition to reforming the government health infrastructure specially created for gas-victims.

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