Toxic waste is still lying inside the Union Carbide factory. The state and central pollution control boards in September incinerated 10 tonnes of the waste at a facility in Pithampur, 250 km from Bhopal.
“We are awaiting further directives from the Supreme Court. The state does not have a major role, the Central Pollution Control Board has to monitor the incineration,” says Gauri Singh, principal secretary, Bhopal gas tragedy relief and rehabilitation department.
Emissions from the trial incineration were within permissible limits, but the location of the incinerator has been challenged by environmentalists. “The facility run by the Ramky Group is near a village. We know it spews carcinogenic dioxins,” says Rachna Dhingra, an activist with the Bhopal Group for Action and Information. Activists have also condemned Centre’s move to reject the United Nations Environmental Programme offer for a comprehensive assessment of the site. “It was necessary for a proper clean-up. The government has a simple programme of transporting the waste from the plant to the incinerator. It will expose workers to toxic waste,” says Sarangi.Sourcetwitter
The Bhopal gas leak
Back in 1984, it was the dark night of December 2 when one Raeez Beg, son of Mahmuda Bi, started coughing in a dingy bylane of Old Bhopal. What at first seemed plain allergy suffocated him to death, the deadly gas had infected him. Raeez’s wife, two sons and three daughters now don’t like to talk much about it. But Mahmuda Bi, now 75, refuses to let that horrifying night settle down in her memory. “It was painful to see him suffocate”, she says.
After years of stoic and resilient struggle for justice, though, Mahmuda Bi’s eyes have dried up. She doesn’t cry anymore; she only speaks and fights for justice. She wants more than just free treatment at hospitals. She seeks good health for her family and relief & rehabilitation for survivors from the government.
Rahim Mahmud Ibrahim, another survivor, lost his son and daughter to the deadly gas leak. Those who survived are still ailing. “The government paid us Rs 25,000 and went away. It’s we, and our children, who suffered. They (the government) have little concern for our suffering”, he says.
According to Ibrahim, they have been rallying for 30 years now, without a fail, attending each rally, each dharna. People’s high hopes from the present central government under Narendra Modi brought them to Jantar Mantar last year. People from the younger generation still worry for their grandparents and parents, who are suffering from serious after-effects.
The WikiLeaks revelation
The WikiLeaks cable (April 20, 1976) clearly says: “As a result of the amendments, the GoI (Government of India) hopefully will be able to make expeditious decisions on the 245 of 855 cases remaining under the Fera. The earlier guidelines had created problems in dealing with the cases of multi-product companies like Union Carbide, whose contribution to Indian industrial developments and exports was vital but could not match the strict criteria under the old guidelines…”
Therefore, it appears, calling what goes as industrial pollution a corporate crime, as in the case of the Bhopal gas tragedy, might not be incorrect. Three long decades have not been enough to kill the effects of a toxin that mutated and intertwined with DNA of ordinary people, thereby changing the very human fabric of the city and lives of its inhabitants.
With December nearing, another round of protests and uproar might be in the offing in Bhopal, only to be silenced sometime later. The long trend shows that it has been an annual drill. But, sadly, the drill has yet to bring any meaningful change in the lives of the survivors, the sufferers.