“When we protest against the government and demand clean water, the government slaps cases against us”

With the Supreme Court directing the Bhopal Municipal Corporation to provide clean water to the areas worst affected by the Union Carbide gas leak within three months, the victims are hoping for better days ahead. The Supreme Court has also set up a committee to monitor the progress.

“We are thankful to the court for paying heed to our misery and asking the government to do its duty, which it has failed to do for the past 27 years,” Shehzadee Bi of Blue Moon Colony, one of the 14 affected localities, said.

Yellowish water

“The water we get here is yellowish in colour with a flat, heavy taste to it. It leaves tough stains on utensils and results in corrosion, leaving holes in the bottom. There are some girls in my neighbourhood who have been rendered infertile due to the toxicity in the water supplied here. Once the word spread, no one is willing to marry them,” she said.

“But when we protest against the government and demand clean water, the government slaps cases against, charging us with attempted suicide to disrupting law and order,” she added.

“We welcome the judgment and hope it is implemented. Or else, we will continue our struggle. It is a part of our lives now,” said Lakshmi, a resident of Prem Nagar.

According to Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) that will be represented in the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee: “It is not a difficult thing to achieve — providing clean drinking water to some thousand people. After all the government does that for crores of people across the State. It is a question of political will and a propensity of the government to ignore the poor.”

“During a Kumbh mela or an Iztema, the government proves it has the resources and efficiency to provide drinking water to lakhs of people within days. So why does it continue to discriminate against the victims?” she sought to know. “Now, with the monitoring committee, we hope things will change.”

Toxins galore

Tests done by several agencies — governmental and independent, from State-level laboratories to national and international organisations — have repeatedly confirmed the presence of Carbaryl (Sevin), Endosulfan, Chlorobenzene, dichlorobenzene, Aldrin, DDT, lead and mercury among others in the water samples from localities around the factory.

More prominent among these, the reports by the Centre for Science and Environment and the Central Pollution Control Board have confirmed “excessive groundwater contamination” and “chronic toxicity” which leads to slow and continuous poisoning over an extended period of time to those exposed.