This really annoys me. Babu Lal Gaur, the present Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, who over the years has done supremely little to help the survivors of either the 1984 gas disaster or the ongoing water poisoning, has announced plans to have all 40 wards of Bhopal city declared gas-affected.
This means that the recently released money, which the Central Government had sat on for years, and which is meant to benefit those who lost relatives and whose health has suffered, will now be distributed to everyone in the city, regardless of whether they were injured or not. Of course this will go down wonderfully as a vote-gaining ploy, but it is the most brazen, cynical and indeed, wicked abuse of the survivors’ rights.
If Gaur’s plan goes through unchallenged, we may expect bureaucrats and middle class people living miles from the factory, none of whom were even slightly affected by the gases of 1984, to collect payouts. Ironic indeed, when so many genuine victims, poor, sick and unable to work, have been refused compensation on the grounds that they did not have paperwork to support their claims, and when children born since the disaster, who are clearly affected, are nonetheless denied compensation.
Gaur has a long and sordid history of selling out the poor of Bhopal. Even before the 1984 disaster, when farmers complained that their cattle were being poisoned by chemicals leaking from the factory, it was Gaur who as a lawyer negotiated an out of court settlement with Union Carbide. Knowing full well that the local water and soil had been contaminated, Gaur did nothing during his tenure as Minister for Gas Relief either to begin cleaning the factory or to compel Union Carbide to do so.
Now that a perfunctory, mismanaged and incompetent “clean up” has begun (at the instigation of a man whom many survivors regard as a Dow stooge, see pictures and updates on https://www.bhopal.net), Gaur announces that he will build a memorial to the victims on the 66 acre site. It will be ‘world-class’, says he, like the Hiroshima memorial. His regime (‘government’ is scarcely the right word) has already applied to Delhi for funding, but if that is not forthcoming will foot the bill itself.
If such funds are available, shouldn’t they be used instead to provide safe drinking water for the 20,000 people living near the factory whose wells and stand-pipes are poisoned, who have been drinking and washing in dilute poison for years, whose mother’s milk is contaminated with lead and mercury and chemicals that can cause cancers, birth and growth defects? If funds are there, why has Gaur’s gang for more than a year ignored a direct order of the Indian Supreme Court to supply safe water to these communities?
A grand park on the contaminated Union Carbide site? Well, before the safety of park visitors can be assured, there will have to be a better clean-up than that performed by unprotected women in saris with brooms (see pictures on bhopal.net). The truth is that the soil and water in the factory site are not just poisonous they are lethal. Union Carbide and its present owners Dow know full well how much it would cost thoroughly to remediate the place, which is why they have wriggled so hard to deny responsibility.
So what is Gaur doing? Is he mad? Bhopal.net recently reported his grandiose plans for the beautification of four major cities in Madhya Pradesh, he would like to see fountains, badminton courts and gymnasia at a time when half the children of the state are suffering from malnutrition. This park in memory of the victims fits well into this megalomaniac vision, which appreciates beautiful buildings, but cannot see ill and starving people, that would bring water in to play in fountains while a mile away people are literally dying of thirst.
Survivors this morning asked Gaur if he is stupid, or corrupt? It has crossed the mind, you see, that public works on a large scale involve contractors and bids and tenders and considerable amounts of money,
When all’s said, Gaur and people like him are sick opportunists, nosing round the pitiful human remains of one of the world’s most appalling disasters to see what they can scavenge for personal gain. He may seek to build monuments to his glory, but he will never be more than a jackal. The kill is Union Carbide’s.