My little girl is married now but she can't bear children. All due to the gas she inhaled as a child, says a victim's mother
December 2-3 1984, Union Carbide India Limited, Bhopal. Barely a toddler in my mother's arms, the tragedy and enormity of that night was much beyond my years. Twenty-five years later, on a recent visit to the Madhya Pradesh capital, I decided to talk to people who were actually there that fateful day.
The first person I spoke to was a very old woman named Mohini. What she narrated went somewhat like this. “Marriage season was on. So when the initial commotion started I thought maybe it was some function somewhere. …Then someone shouted that gas is leaking and outside there was a mad rush of people trying to outrun the lethal gas. On the roads people were falling down and dying and getting trampled upon by the ones following behind. I too ran with my family.
“Amid the turmoil my youngest child, my two-year-old daughter got lost. I asked my husband to take our other four kids to safety and ran back to get my missing child. Luckily, I found her and somehow managed a safe return.” That little girl is married now but she cannot bear children. All due to the gas she inhaled as a child.
While we were at it, the person serving us tea looked up. There was pain on his face while he narrated his personal tragedy. His father inhaled so much methyl isocyanate (MIC) that he died a few days later. His death was not recognised as death due to poisoning and his son was denied the compensation due to the next of kin of victims. Moreover, his wife became mentally deranged. She sometimes runs naked out of the bathroom shouting, “run …run …the gas is leaking.” He has to wrap her up and comfort her in times like these. This is her condition, even 25 years after the incident.
The Rs.25,000 he got for her is of little comfort.
From the government there is nothing in store for Mohini's little girl, who can never be a mother in her life, not that her pain and sorrow can be quantified in monetary terms.
These are just a few people but there are many others like them who are suffering even today just because some company was so busy making profits that it looked upon the most necessary safety measures as a waste of resources. But this was what a foreign company did to them.
What about their own so-called government? Till date, no proper survey method has been adopted to identify the victims or other affected persons. Naturally, the compensation process is skewed, leaving out many deserving candidates like the aforementioned ones.
Bringing the guilty to book is justifiable and should be done but in the process let us not forget our duty towards our own people. Adequate compensation to deserving candidates is just one of those little things which we can actually do, while they deal with their own real life nightmares of that night.
(The writer's email: rupali_sinha@ rediffmail.com)