Bhopal tragedy - the saga continues
Prashant Mukherjee | 25 Mar 2008
Bhopal Tragedy – The Saga continues
Why does the Bhopal tragedy continues to live on?
It is an unsettling question both for those who have inherited the generational legacy of one of the world's worst industrial environmental disasters and also for those who have inherited blunted sensitivity that has been nurtured by over two decades of denial of the true nature and continuing impact of the "Gas Kand" in the night of December 2nd and 3rd of 1984.
Twenty-three-years is a long time and more so for a nation, which under its neo-liberal avatar has gotten used to tiding over what happens to those not part of this economic dream run. Bhopal gas victims were in news over the past two weeks as they marched to the National Capital to be heard on long-term demands of establishment of an empowered commission on Bhopal for long-term medical care and rehabilitation of the victims and their children.
Marching to Delhi among other things makes the issues news worthy, apart from reminding the State that the incident did not die with the first victims of the exposure and it will not die as the mental scars, ailments and a collective grief of the people affected will continue to linger on as long as the apathy towards long-term and comprehensive mitigation continues. The march ended in a familiar ritual for 1500 survivors who met up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
What’s new on Bhopal? Was a quip by an elderly gentlemen after an evening of slide show and presentation by two very different people from, similarly divergent fields -- Pablo Bartholomew, press photographer famed for his images of the tragedy, and Dr. Ingrid Eckerman, a medical practitioner who has authored The Bhopal Saga.
I felt outraged after having seen some among the audience moved to tears by pictures that Pablo used to document the disaster not only as an aftermath, but as a continuing loss that he went back to witness again and again. But some of us can be immune to pictures of tragedies; a classical side affect of excessive exposure. But, how do you not realise that the discussion is not a flip-back to contemporary history and something alive and staring on our faces, when some of the victims themselves are present to draw support and opinions, including teens and kids.
The fact that the contamination of the compound of Union Carbide, where the leak happened, still has deadly toxins lying around and leaching down to the ground water. The fact that the victims are still fighting almost a generation after the incident, indicates that the tragedy of Bhopal lingers on not because it happened, but because we allow it to live on....
The fact that environmental and industrial disasters hurt the marinalised and the poor most is no guarantee that you can assume that pollutants are not reaching your backyard or the food table itself.