THE TINSHED, BHOPAL, MARCH 18, 2007
MEERA was 3 at the time of the gas leak. Does she remember anything?
My mother covered my head with a blanket as the gas passed above us.
Twenty-two years later, Meera has made the struggle of the survivors her own. Why does she walk from one basti to the next in the midday heat to recruit people for rallies? Why does she lead the slogans with her powerful voice, even when her throat starts to crack and the nerves of her stomach clench painfully? Why has she devoted her life to this one cause?
Because it has been too long. Shivraj Singh Chauhan has to listen to us. We are young and can work; we need jobs. Meera wants the government to provide the survivors with economic rehabilitation.
NAFISA was a bride of Bhopal; she first entered the capital when she got married, six months before the gas disaster. Twenty-three years have passed since then; she now lives in Gupta Nagar, a water-contaminated community.
We get water from a tank, but it is not much better than the hand pump water, she says. Water comes in the morning and the tank is sucked dry within twenty-four hours, leaving people thirsty until the next delivery.
Nafisa’s husband is one of the six hunger strikers. While he is being held captive at Hamidia, Nafisa spends her days at the Tinshed, hoping that the government provides her family with clean drinking water.
KAMLA BEE is a widow who needs to support not only herself, but her grandchildren as well. Kamla may be old, but she is not weak. She is everything to her granddaughters Pooja and Rajkumari – a mother, father, mentor, and teacher. She gets a pension of Rs 600 a month (US$ 13.61, UK£7, €10.22) and is demanding a proper from Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
I raise my granddaughters single handedly, because their father and step mother do not want them. Why? They are female, you see, burdens on the family from the day they were born. Rs. 600 a month is not enough to feed three people. The little money we get comes from renting out two rooms. But it is still difficult to get by.