Lapierre traces gas disaster history
Central Chronicle, 26 January 2001

Renowned French novelist Dominique Lapierre, author of award winning novels including Freedom at Midnight, Is Paris Burning? Is likely to hit stands again with his recently co-authored book with his nephew Xavier Moro, Bhopal at Midnight.

He along with Moro were in city to complete their research for the book on Bhopal gas tragedy slated to be released in English next year.

Speaking at a felicitation function organised by Sambhavna Trust, a local organisation working for relief and rehabilitation of gas victims, at Old Vidhan Sabha here on Thursday. Lapierre recalled how toxic gases gushed out from one of the underground tanks of Bhopal-based US Multinational, Union Carbide's plant. The toxic gas leakage had claimed thousands of lives and maimed several thousands. The people continued to suffer even fifteen years after the disaster.

Indian government settled for a record low compensation for the lives and permanent injury to the people, he added. Lapierre thanked the people of Bhopal for the welcome accorded to him and his friends. He said India has always fascinated him and he had always loved to work here.

Speaking on the occasion, Padma Bhushan awardee and chairman of the Sambhavna Trust PM Bhargava said that the nexus between the government-bureaucrats and multinationals was exposed after the gas tragedy. He added that the government settled for a meager amount of compensation against the actual losses and sufferings. The government has done grave injustice to the victims, as an equal amount of money disbursed as compensation still lies with the government. The government is yet to clarify why such a huge amount of money meant for gas victims has been kept in the banks and not given to the affected persons. Referring to the setting up of Union Carbide funded Bhopal Trust Hospital, he said that a huge hospital had come up in Bhopal but the treatment provided by the hospital is beyond reach of poor gas victims for whom this hospital was established.

Earlier in the day, Lapierre met gas victims at Neelam Park where he was honoured by Gas Peedit Nirashrit Morcha coordinator Balkrishna Namdeo. Others who felicitated him include vice president Akhtar Jehan Begum, secretary Badar Alam, Rampyari Bai, Tarabai Yadav, Mathura Bai, Kausar Jahan, Malti Shrivastava, Perm Bai and Sampat Bai Yadav.

Balkrishna Namdeo thanked Lapierre and his nephew efforts for providing all assistance to the gas victims. He interacted with the widows and assured them every possible help. He congratulated them for their struggle for rehabilitation.