A unique buffet
Twenty-five years down the line, the scars of the Bhopal gas leak tragedy continue to haunt the lives of the natives. As the ongoing campaign to bring justice to the survivors continues unabated, the following is a first-hand account of a unique protest:
A quarter century later Bhopal’s survivors are still fighting for justice. Ahead of 3rd December, the survivors of the tragedy and their supporters have launched a week-long protest to condemn the inaction of the state government to remove the toxic waste from the vicinity of the factory. In response to the preposterous claim made by the Joint Secretary of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department that the level of toxicity in the soil inside and around the factory compound is way below danger level and if 200 gm of it is consumed orally by a person weighing 70 kg, it will not have any effect, implying that any food or plant grown in that soil is “safe” for consumption, a Vish Mukti Bhoj was organized on 28th November in front of the factory by the survivors of the tragedy.
Around 30–40 women from Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karamchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha and Bhopal Group for Information and Action launched a unique and tongue-in-cheek protest to bring out the ridiculousness of the joint secretary’s claim. The protesters sat in a line with paper plates and bowls in front of them that contained the contaminated soil and water from the factory and surrounding areas. The plates came with name tags for Chief Minister Shivraj Chauhan, Minister for Gas Relief and Civic Administration Babulal Gaur, Chief Secretary Rakesh Sahni and other bureaucrats to invite them to eat the soil and drink the water that their government claims to be safe and free from contamination. Huge black banners were put up that said: “Jhoot bolna bandh karo” (Stop lying) along with a dummy crow depicting the theme of “jhoot bole kauwa kaate” (A crow will bite you if you lie).
A report released today by the Centre for Science and Environment confirms what the survivors of the tragedy already know — the groundwater has been contaminated as far as 3 km from the factory site and contains almost forty times more pesticides than Indian standards. (For more details on the Bhopal gas tragedy visit ICJB and Students for Bhopal.)
Shweta Vachani, 28 November 2009
The Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department’s flippant, insensitive claim needs no refutal, for the evidence is apparent. CNN IBN’s Nilanjana Bose finds how the tragedy “has left a permanent imprint on the city of Bhopal”. In her half-hour piece “Scars from the Bhopal Gas Tragedy”, she documents how the next generation is paying dearly for it: Watch it here (viewer discretion advised).