Rashida Bee, President, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Sangh
Before the gas disaster we had no idea what Union Carbide was, or what it made. This gas and its deadly effects were completely unknown to us. We lived a quiet life, we observed purdah in our homes. We were bidi workers and worked indoors. After each day of work, we slept off in our homes only. But that night we were sleeping, when my sister’s son started to complain, saying it felt like someone was burning chilies in the room. He began to ask who was burning the chilies, and went outside to find the source of this smell. But suddenly he came back running and said, “Aapa (Aunty) it is a mayhem, police have also run away, run or everyone will die”. As we heard this we fled our home and ran for our lives. Everyone, all our neighbours, was hopelessly running for their lives.
Due to heavy breathing, it became very difficult for me to run after a while. We were feeling very much in pain, with a burning sensation inside our lungs and heavy irritation in our swollen eyes. Any kind of light was unbearably painful for our eyes. It seemed like the day of reckoning and hour of our death. I prayed to Allah, ‘Oh Allah please give me death’. All people around me were wishing for death. That night death was a cherished desire.
We were all sitting near the lake, but no one told us water was the antidote. No one was aware water could bring instant relief to this pain. Not one person told us the water could have saved our eyes.
Then at 4 am we heard an announcement that the leakage at UCC had stopped and we could all go back home. It was the first time in our lives when we heard about UCC and the gas.
By the time we reached home we were unable even to stand, breath or walk. We passed out because of the effects of the gas. In the morning, a bus came and took us to the hospital. In the morning we realised some of our family members were no more, while others were at the hospital.
When we reached the hospital, there was utter confusion as the doctors didn’t know what treatment to give. They were helplessly asking each other. When the doctors called the UCC branch to find out about the composition of the gas the company denied to disclose the ingredients. This left doctors aghast, as the company said gas composition was a trade secret and could not be disclosed as other companies might steal their products.
By this time there were hundreds more at the hospital. People were crying, as their loved ones were dying one by one in the hospital campus. Dead bodies stacked like bags of grains in a granary. Death reigned everywhere in sight. People were dying all around us. As the patients kept dying the heaps became bigger. It was said that 20000 to 22000 people died in the 3 to 4 days of the incident. But the as per the government data this number was reduced to only 2200.
My father was vomiting blood in the hospital, my brother-in-law’s family was missing. We were soon shifted to my paternal home with our relatives to recover.
But even when we returned six months later, horrible conditions prevailed in Bhopal. The gas in one night had killed so many people that entire families were lost, there was no one living that had not lost a family member that night. People’s happiness vanished, our smiles were stolen from us. Every house was in mourning.
There was effective treatment, in fact at the time there was no treatment in hospitals as doctors were administering general medicines like ceptron, paracetamol etc to the victims because they didn’t know how to treat the victims.
During this all, the Government introduced an employment scheme for survivors. There were 40 centres per 100 trainees for stationary making. We were also enrolled in it. We got 5 rupees per day with Rs 150 as a stipend fund monthly. This was also stopped after three months, before the training course was even complete. They did not even teach us anything.
All the other women spoke out against this saying “Bai ji, please take some action against this fraud”. At that time, I used to hesitate speaking with men, as we never addressed men outside our families. I was not ready to talk with the district collector. As I said, if they are closing the place down, we should leave as we have anyways not learned anything. But it was a group of 100 ladies that forced me to talk with the collector.
This was the first time I met with Didi ji (Champa Devi Shukla). The collector said that “our sanctioned period of work was for three months only, so go back home now”. I replied, “How will we manage to live without money”. I was completely dependant on my salary, 150 rupees, which I used to pay for the house rent, medicines for my father and other house expenses. The collector advised us to go speal to the chief minister. The Chief minister met us, and we told him we wanted work, and that any kind of work would do as we were so desperate. He agreed that time and later we joined a place, where we worked for one day and rest of the month we were given no work. At the end of the month we got only 6 rupees as payment. Seeing this injustice we all felt betrayed and angry, as until then we could manage to run our homes with Rs 150, but what could we have done with Rs 6? We started to organise and started a movement for our rights and for justice. We refused to accept their money and said we would work for free if we had to, the government was the gluttonous one, not us. Today we are still fighting for justice.
Since the 2nd of December, 1984 the situation has become much worse as successive governments have continued with their tricks and lies. The Indian government is not working to bring justice for Bhopal. Political parties have made numerous empty promises, while their lead governments have continued to exploit and fool us. Ministers have made hundreds of crores of rupees by appropriating the relief funds and the Bhopal gas genocide issue. While doctors and politicians are playing with unimaginable riches, there is no treatments for Bhopal victims. The medical systems are designed in such a way that no victim can ever receive proper medical attention at government hospitals. For example, there were several counters in the hospital: counter no 1 was for Bhopal victims while no 9 was a private ward. Only novice or tyro doctors were at the 1st counter attending serious aliments, while counter 9 was only manned by senior practitioners. Senior doctors made billions of rupees and even conducted illegal medical trails and undocumented research on victims. When we spoke out against the illegal human trials on this scam, the doctors protested and shifted to private hospitals and clinics.
Now state government wishes to take over the gas hospital, because of the money involved. About 500 crores is up for grabs. There are 16 big hospitals for gas victims, but genocide survivors are not getting treatment in any of them.
Not even one government, not the Congress or the BJP work in favour of the gas victims. Even our ideal prime minister, Atal Bihari never showed an interest in ameliorating our problem.
Now, prime minister Narendra Modi is extending an open invitation to all the chemical companies to come and make poisons in India, making sure that corporations will never be made liable in front of the law to victims of any chemical accident or disaster such as the Bhopal genocide.
Mr. Narendra Modi is a big supporter of Dow Chemicals, and is not ashamed of it. During the ‘Rail Roko’ movement, chief minister Shiv Raj Singh Chauhan promised in 2011 to allow 50 lakhs to every victim, but he completely forgot his promise.
Today there is no treatment, no employment and no rehabilitation for Bhopal gas victims. The lives of our children is being ruined. 850 children disabled from birth are studying here. A survey showed that 19 mothers in 20 have mercury in their breast milk.
What will happen if a baby drinks poison during gestation and after birth through the mothers’ milk? Children will be born handicapped. This is conspiracy to destroy the growing population of Hindustan. Before Independence, the English government used to spray a chemical/biological serum that caused onset diseases like the plague. Once they had killed enough people they got the antidote out. They were using diseases to control the population before India’s Independence. It is the same strategy used by our prime minister, by inviting chemical companies that are poisoning our rivers, air and our food. They are giving this country slow poisons. The leaders want to create a very favourable working environment for these chemical companies, they do not want to save nature or to save the human beings but only corporate profits. If you fight, if you raise your voice they will send you to jail or trap you in legal cases.
Author: Indra Shekhar Singh
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