Friday, 4 May 2007

Bhopal disaster rumbles on

Bhopal is also in the state of Madhya Pradesh and is facing many similar problems to those described in Indor. Like many Indian cities it is so visually apparent that economically it is booming and expanding – the rich are getting richer, yet behind this facade the poor are getting poorer, and slums spread across over 20% of the city. Bhopal is best known for the tragic accident that happened over 20 years ago when Union Carbide’s factories leaked toxic chemicals across the city killing thousands. The repercussions have been felt for generations with people fighting for compensation, accountability of Union Carbide and for their rights to a safe future. The campaign has international acclaim but the struggle goes on and prejudice remains rife. As I was entering a slum to meet some people directly involved with the disaster, an air-conditioned car drove by and commented ‘oh look there are some of those gas victims’ – proving that today these communities have been ostracised from Bhopals up and coming boom. Compared to the people of Indor many had been campaigning hard for 20 years – in fact

I don’t think I have ever met so many inspirational people in one place. Women have played an incredibly strong role in the movement – undertaking actions such as walking from Bhopal to Delhi (a mere few thousand miles) to take their issues to the national government, to organising hundreds of meetings locally, nationally and internationally – to taking contaminated land and dumping it outside Union Carbides headquarters. And this is a mixture of people it is not just the educated and the middle class, it is also the working class, the illiterate, the slum dwellers, the untouchables all working together to try and gain justice for their community and ensure that such a terrible thing is not repeated. There are still many battles to be one, and one that has perhaps received less press is the problem with the aftermath of this toxic spill – or the groundwater that has now been contaminated. Groundwater that the people drink everyday because there is no alternative. The evidence of contamination is there, and the effects are obvious with cancer rates going through the roof, yet the government is failing to take action. One women described the struggle as being a lifelong one that must not end. “Campaigning is like a life. 20 years ago when we starting fighting Union Carbide, the campaign was a baby, over the years it has grown in energy but so has the struggle. Now we a fighting a young man, and we must keep up that energy, now and in the future.”

The trip ended with a visit to the Bhopal museum where many artefacts/photos/press cuttings are stored. All in all while the day was inspiring by the people I met, it was also a very distressing experience to come face to face with one of the grim realities of today.


ravikanth said...

I have never seen this much very good info

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