Last week in Bhopal 300 women from neighbourhoods whose drinking water is contaminated by chemicals leaking from Union Carbide’s derelict factory went to the Chief Minister’s house and tied rakhis on his wrist.
A rakhi is a tinsel bracelet tied by women on the wrists of their brothers to ask their protection. The mottos on the bracelets read simply, ‘Save us sisters from poisoned water’.
The deeply traditional plea touched Chief Minister Gaur’s heart for he immediately called a meeting, scheduled for the very next day, of top officials and ordered that clean water be supplied to the 16 communities which have been forced to drink and bathe in dilute poisons for years.
The Chief Minister said that the state would bear the cost of piping in the clean water. The cost, estimated to run to 9 crores of rupees (more than $2,000,000 US) will be among the monies sought to be recovered from Union Carbide. It is a fleabite compared to the cost of cleaning up the factory and remediating the contaminated soil and groundwater. Union Carbide and its 100% owners Dow Chemical meanwhile refuse to accept responsibility for the chaos and suffering they have caused and continue to abscond from criminal proceedings in Bhopal.
For the survivors, who have heard many promises over the years, but are not used to being kindly received by those in authority, the Chief Minister’s promise of clean water soon is a cause for hope. We look forward to the day the pipelines start to flow.