Bhopal mourns gas victims

Central Chronicle, December 4, 2008
Bhopal, Dec 3: Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy today mourned their kith and kin, who had a silent death following leakage of about 40 tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate from the Union Carbide Corporation’s (UCC) pesticide plant here on this day 24 years ago.
Several Non Government Organisations (NGOs) organised their own programmes in the gas-hit city as part of the annual ritual to pay homage to the victims, mostly belonging to downtrodden families.
All Religion Prayer
At the government level, an ‘All Religion Prayer’ was organised at the Barkatullah Bhavan to pay tribute to those perished in the world’s worst industrial disaster.
Madhya Pradesh State Human Rights Commission Chairman Justice DM Dharmadhikari led the prayers. Traditionally, Governor and Chief Minister used to attend the function but this time they did not turn up.
Religious heads of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Daudi Bohra, Jainism and Buddhism made the prayers at the meeting.
Those present on the occasion included DGP SK Raut, Principal Secretary of Health and Family Welfare Department Devraj Virdi, Bhopal divisional commissioner Pukhraj Maroo, IG Shailendra Shrivastava and a large number of distinguished citizens and public representatives.
Communist Party of India
The Communist Party of India organised a human chain, staged a demonstration and burnt former UCC Chairman Warren Anderson in effigy at Itwara Chowk. CPI district secretary Shailendra Kumar Shaili said that capitalism has given birth to terrorism. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy happened due to capitalist terrorism, he added.
Mahila Udyog Sangathan
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan organised condolence meetings at different venues, including on the road in front of the Union Carbide factory which is currently acquired by another multinational Dow Chemicals.
A small memorial
The statue of a woman carrying an infant in her hand and another kid holding her saree, depicting the panic of the intervening night of December 2-3 1984, was also a centre of attraction across the plant.
Railway employees
The railway employees paid tributes to their 45 colleagues, including then Bhopal Station Superintendent HS Dhurve, who died during the tragedy. He had reportedly stopped the movement of trains passing through Bhopal averting casualty of a number of train passengers and in this bid he died in his office chamber.
Unique homage by artists
Artists of Bhopal paid homage to the Gas Tragedy victims in a unique way, through paintings. The Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti had organised this programme in front Union Carbide gate. Senior artists like Dr. LN Bhavsar, Devilal Patidar, Anil Gaikwar, Roopinder Siddhu, Hutaram Adhikari, Manoj Kulkarni, Shailendra Namdev, Satish Dhoke, Dr. Raju Rathore, Ramashankar Mishra, Shital Sharma, Padmakar Santape, Basant Bhargav, Pradeep Ahirwar, Inder Singh Thakur, Dhananjay expressed their imagination through paintings.
Other NGOs also took out rallies condemning the successive state governments and multinational companies for leaving the victims to fend for themselves. Andersons’ effigies were also burnt at many places.
The mourners also visited different crematoria and burial grounds to pay tribute to the deceased.
Many NGOs still criticised the government for providing only symptomatic treatment to the gas affected though a super speciality Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre had been established on Supreme Court’s order to serve the survivors of the tragedy.
Mahila Udyog Sangathan Convenor Abdul Jabbar claimed that about 30,000 people had died and another one lakh people permanently disabled after their exposure to toxic MIC. More than five lakh people had filed suits for compensation which was being distributed through ward-level courts out of the corpus of 475 million US dollars received from the UCC through the Supreme Court mediation.
The criminal case relating to the industrial disaster was still pending in a local court. Then UCC Chairman Warren Anderson was among the accused but he had not yet responded to the court’s summons.
Over the years UCC was acquired by Dow Chemicals. The Madhya Pradesh government has plans to develop a memorial on the 80-acre land surrounding the now-closed carbide plant.
Madhya Pradesh High Court had already issued directives for shifting of the chemical waste lying at the factory premises as it was causing water pollution in the adjoining areas.
Indian Council of Medical Research had conducted several projects to study the after effects of exposure to MIC. Majority of the victims have started showing symptoms of cancer and a Cancer Hospital has been set up in the city since this tragedy.
Free cataract operations
World Handicap Day is being observed on 3rd December. On this day the ‘Drishti’ Institute of Bhopal Charitable Hospital paid homage to the deceased of Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims and cataract operations of poor villagers were done. In a programme organised N Sridharan, Jai Prakash Pandey and Ajay Singh of the Micro Finance Branch of State Bank of India distributed free medicines and goggles to the poor patients. Dr Ajit Jain, Ajay Mehta and others of ‘Drishti’ gave free advice to the eye patients.
Homage paid to rail workers
At a function to pay homage to the rail workers who died in gas tragedy, Additional Divisional Railway Manager Lt. Colonel MP Singh announced that a shed would be erected at the memorial and beautification of the place would also be done. The West Central Railway Workers Welfare Centre, School family and Scouts and Guides placed a floral wheel at the memorial on Platform No. 1 and paid homage by standing two minutes in silence.
Not learnt any lesson
Jahrili Gas Kand Sangharsh Morcha president Man Singh said that the Central Government has not learnt any lesson even from the worst industrial disaster that occurred at Bhopal 24 years ago. He said that it is sad that the gas victims did not get proper treatment these years and the court could not punish the culprits of the tragedy so far.

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