STORY IN PICTURES
Women from communities whose water is poisoned by cancer- and birth-defect-causing chemicals leaking from Union Carbide’s derelict factory in Bhopal gather outside the house of Gas Relief Minister Babu Lal Gaur.
They came to remind Gaur that on August 21, when he was Chief Minister, he had allowed them to tie “rakhees” on his wrist – signifying that he would afford them a brother’s protection – and promised to provide them with safe drinking water piped from the Kolar reservoir. (See Bhopal.net report from 22 August)
The picture above was taken not today, but in April 2004, also outside the home of Gaur who was then Chief Minister. The communities have been asking for clean water for years, ever since it became it known that poisons like lead, mercury, nickel and a slew of lethal organochlorines had contaminated their wells and stand pipes and had even been found in the breast milk of nursing mothers living near the factory. The story of the April 2004 protest was reported on bhopal.net here.
In May 2004 the Indian Supreme Court ordered the Bhopal politicians to ensure that the affected communities received piped supplies of clean drinking water. To date this order has simply been ignored, as have the protests of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee set up to ensure compliance with the order. The politicians have treated the Supreme Court and the affected people with utter contempt. In this story from Bhopal.net the then Minister of Gas Relief Umashankar Gupta celebrates his birthday in lavish style while the people supposedly in his care were dying of Carbide’s poisons. The picture shows his 53kg birthday cake. Also in evidence were elephants and a dancing horse.
In June this year, Bhopal.net reported that while the Supreme Court’s order continued to be ignored, Babu Lal Gaur was proposing to spend $180 million on public fountains, badminton courts and fitness gyms. On that occasion we wrote, “The Gaur regime, it can hardly be described as ‘government’, has for more than a year also ignored an Indian Supreme Court ruling to provide safe drinking water for families in Bhopal whose wells and stand-pipes have been poisoned by chemicals leaking from the derelict Union Carbide factory. Last month, women who went with their children to a government office to protest were beaten and kicked by police.” Read about that bit of brutality here.
These are some of the people injured by police for daring to ask the politicians to obey the Supreme Court’s order. Below, a man is being beaten and kicked while being dragged away by his hair, the picture appeared in the newspaper Rajya ki Nayi Duniya (literally, ‘The Government’s New World’)
And so back to today, the police watchful as the women make their protest.
Asking their “brother” why he had failed to keep his promise.
The women were trying to tell Gaur that despite his promise, their communities continue to be supplied with poor quality water by road tankers and that the amount supplied is less than a fifth of what people actually need.
They also pointed out that six communities have had no water at all, not even by tanker. As a consequence, the majority of people in the 16 communities are forced to drink the poisonous water coming from their hand pumps.
Gaur did not show himself on this occasion to his “sisters”.
In the end they leave. Another day without clean water or justice. In the “rajya” of Gaur and his cronies the poor have no rights, no voice and no hope. Yet the women will never give up. They will be back.