Thursday, December 03, 2009

25 Years, Bhopal still weeps..!!

I get shivers down my spine whenever I think about December 3, 1984. On this day a cloud of methyl isocyanate gas got leaked at Bhopal and Within hours, more than 3,000 people were dead. This gas came from leak at Union Carbide plant.

Hundreds of people died from the effects of toxic gases which leaked from a chemical factory near the central Indian city of Bhopal. The accident happened in the early hours of that morning at the American-owned Union Carbide Pesticide Plant three miles (4.8 km) from Bhopal. Mothers didn't know their children had died, children didn't know their mothers had died and men didn't know their whole families had died. This caused a deadly cloud of lethal gas to float from the factory over Bhopal, which was home to more than 900,000 people - many of whom lived in slums. Chaos and panic broke out in the city and surrounding areas as tens of thousands of people attempted to escape. More than 20,000 people have required hospital treatment for symptoms including swollen eyes, frothing at the mouth and breathing difficulties. Thousands of dead cats, dogs, cows and birds litter the streets and the city's mortuaries are filling up fast.

Bhopal residents said that they were choking and their eyes were burning. They could barely see the road through the fog, and sirens were blaring. They didn't know which way to run. Everybody was very confused. The Union Carbide factory was closed immediately after the accident and three senior members of staff arrested. Medical and scientific experts dispatched to the scene and the Indian government ordered a judicial inquiry. This was one of the world's worst industrial accidents.Nearly 3,000 people died from the effects of the poisonous gas in the days following the disaster. Estimates say that some 50,000 people were treated in the first few days suffering terrible side-effects, including blindness, kidney and liver failure. Campaigners say nearly 20,000 others have since died from the effects of the leak.Investigations into the disaster revealed that something had gone fundamentally wrong with a tank storing lethal methyl isocyanate (MIC).

In 1989 Union Carbide, which is now a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, paid the Indian Government £470m in a settlement which many described as woefully inadequate.But in 1999 a voluntary group in Bhopal which believed not enough had been done to help victims, filed a lawsuit in the United States claiming Union Carbide violated international law and human rights.In November 2002 India said it was seeking the extradition of former Union Carbide boss Warren Anderson from the US. Mr Anderson faces charges of "culpable homicide" for cost-cutting at the plant which is alleged to have compromised safety standards.

In October 2004, the Indian Supreme Court approved a compensation plan drawn up by the state welfare commission to pay nearly $350m to more than 570,000 victims of the disaster.

People still continue to die. Experts say- This month, this week, someone would have died an untimely death because of the exposure back in 1984. And there are still 100,000 or more people suffering from chronic illnesses.

All the compensation story was drama, the real victims never got anything. Those who got were powerful and rich. Poor street dwellers still suffer.

If we don't learn from it,tomorrow, another Bhopal will happen.

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