22 years of tearful remembrance

Bhopal, Dec 2: ”We do not have any sensational news for you, we have the sorrow and suffering of the Gas Tragedy victims and the documents linked with a long battle for justice. But is anyone still interested about those affected by the world’s worst industrial disaster?” When social activist Abdul Jabbar raises this poignant question his eyes reveal the fatigue and sadness of the past 22 years during which he has been involved with the case.
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan Convenor Jabbar needs to wipe his clouded eyes repeatedly as he was also affected by the methyl isocyanate that leaked from the Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) factory here on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, immediately slew thousands and affected lakhs.
Responding to a query, he says, ”I am tired and also vexed but not disappointed. I will continue championing the cause of the victims’ rights. Over the past 22 years, 34,000 persons died as a consequence of the inhalation exposure. One-lakh persons were either temporarily or permanently handicapped. To add insult to injury, those responsible are yet to be brought to book.”
Meanwhile, Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Babulal Gaur, also a former chief minister, told that the state government is extending all possible assistance and treatment to the victims. ”I was myself a witness to the tragedy and therefore the rehabilitation of those affected is my foremost priority. Time and again we have requested the Centre for aid and Union Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh’s stance has been co-operative. The Centre should either help in securing more compensation from Union Carbide or sanction financial assistance itself,” he feels.
Pointing out that Singh agreed in principle on the demand for doling out aid to the remaining 20 wards of this city, the minister adds that the Centre has been urged for help in constructing an international-level memorial in front of the now-closed UCIL unit and safe removal of toxic substances in the soil of the premises.
”Treatment of victims is done free of cost at the Bhopal Memorial super-speciality hospital at Karond and related medical institutions. No complaint has been made to me in that regard,” Gaur says while denying any proposal to wind up his department. On December 1, 1987, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a charge sheet in the district court against a total of 12 accused including the then Union Carbide Corporation chairman Warren Anderson, the then UCIL chairman Keshav Mahindra, managing director Vijay Gokhale and Union Carbide Eastern, Hong Kong. The bench declared Anderson as an absconder.
Accused RB Roychoudhry, the then assistant works manager, is deceased. The case is being argued in the chief judicial magistrate’s court for about two decades and in February Mahindra and eight others together appeared before the bench for the first time.
”Hearings ought to take place every day. When the fake passports case, in which (underworld don Abu Salem’s starlet girlfriend) Monica Bedi is one of the accused, can be heard regularly why not the criminal case relating to the world’s worst industrial disaster?” feels Jabbar.
Mayor Sunil Sood paid homage to the victims of dreaded ‘Gas Tragedy’ on Saturday. Bihar Sanskritik Parishhad, BHEL has decided to organise a two minutes silence followed by homage to the gas victims on December 3 at Saraswati Aradhana Kendra, Berkhera. WCR Indian Scouts and Guides G.No.1 is going to offer a ‘Flowery Wreath’, followed by two minute silence and homage to the gas victims at Shaheed Smarak on December 3 at 8:30am. The 22nd anniversary of Gas Tragedy would be observed as ‘Demand Day’ by Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila & Purush Sangharsh Morcha. Member of the Morcha would hang the effigy of Warren Anderson and would also present a memorandum to the governor, chief minister and gas relief minister. Gandhiwadi Jankalyan Samiti under the leadership of Kallu Pehlwan is going to burn the effigy of Warren Anderson at Itwara Square on December 3 at 11:00am. After paying homage to the gas victims, food would also be provided to the poor. Shiv Sena offered homage to the gas victims at Bhawani Chowk premises on Saturday. The party workers also burnt the effigy of Warren Anderson. Sena demanded that 22 years have passed and union government has not fulfilled its promises.

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