Survivors of the Union Carbide gas leak disaster staged their much- trumpeted “Jhooth bole kauwa kaate” (the crow bites the liar) and “benign buffet” protest in front of the Carbide factory here on Saturday.
Sitting with a huge dummy crow and plates of “delicacies” made out of hazardous chemical waste, they awaited Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Gas Relief Minister Babulal Gaur, State Chief Secretary Rakesh Sahni and other bureaucrats to join them for the “benign buffet”.
The invitees, of course, did not seem to have an appetite for “semi-processed pesticide on watercress” and “lime-sludge mousse” and failed to show up. The survivors, however, had a lot to say. Facing standard questions from media, they reeled out their tales of misery.
They have been doing this for years. And yet, as the establishment ushers them into the 25th year of their misery, nothing seems to have changed.
“Look at this!” says Laksmi Bai of Prem Nagar, holding out a bottle of acid-ish golden yellow liquid. “The Government wants us to believe this is water fit for human consumption. It has corroded all my utensils, leaves a yellow haldi-like residue and causes skin irritation,” she says.
Yet they drink it everyday. The tragedy ruined an entire generation and it did not just stop at that. Baano Bi of New Arif Nagar has more to say: “I lost five members of my family in the tragedy. Today we continue to live in slum-like conditions. We are doomed forever.”
The collective hatred of the survivors seemed concentrated on one man more than anyone else. Minister for Gas Relief and Civic Administration Babulal Gaur seemed to be the “monster of the moment” for the survivors.
“In 2005, we tied rakhis to Babulal Gaur and he promised us clean water,” says Haazra Bi. “But when we went to him again to remind him of his promise, he accused us of robbery and got us arrested. Cases are still on against 11 of us,” she says.