By June 2005 Babulal Gaur, then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, had for a year been ignoring a Supreme Court ruling to provide safe drinking water for communities whose wells were being poisoned by chemicals leaking from the derelict Carbide plant. The reason: lack of funds. But this did not stop him announcing plans to spend Rs 800 crores ($180 million) on beautifying the state’s cities with ornamental fountains and other amenities. Women who went with their children to government offices to protest were beaten, kicked and punched by police. We have the pictures. Meanwhile the minister in charge of gas relief and rehabilitation celebrated his birthday with a 52 kg cake and a two-mile-long procession which included camels and dancing horses. (Picture on this page.) To this add decades of neglect and broken promises from successive Indian governments, and the indifference of every US president from Reagan to Obama, and no wonder the Bhopalis sing:
Asia, Afrika, Amrika shake,
thrones and kings fall down, queen’s crowns
set with precious stones go rolling in the dust
when the people wake.
Politicians quiver, Kampani trembles
rip-off laws begin to totter
and the CM, dirty rotter, shivers when the people wake.