Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A 350 ton problem

It isn't over until it really is over.

Like this great article says, the real tragedy of Bhopal is, perhaps, that it is still unfolding. That people still fall sick and need regular treatment and lose jobs because they are sick so often. And yes, there's a hospital, where 'Everything is free. But there is a price on every treatment'.

“Twenty rupees for the bed, 50 rupees for the blood test,” says his daughter. Khan’s lungs have weakened to the point where he cannot work any more. He is entitled to a pension, which was recently increased to about Rs 300 from Rs 150. This is yet another heartbreak. To be eligible for the new pension, he has to fill out a form. And for the last two months, he says, he has been going to the local nagar nigam office only to be told that the forms have not reached.'

Nice, no? A pension of Rs 300. And it was Rs 150 until recently. Makes you proud to be Indian, eh? We give old and sick people a pension! A whole 150 rupees.

The article also goes on to cite studies that show that the land is still 'highly' contaminated with chemical like Carbyl. And "Carbaryl, says the report, damages brain and nervous system, and causes endocrine disruption and abnormal child development."

Plus, there's no money to research the illnesses associated with the tragedy - and some doctors are asking for less than Rs 2 crore to initiate research.

Plus, the houses they built for the widows are such that in the Widhwa Colony, barely two kilometers from the Carbide factory, "It is difficult to say which is the bigger disaster – that so many men died, or, that their widows now lead such a deprived existence. All the houses are shoddily built. In one home, the wall was so poorly connected to the stairway it was meant to support, that the two have pulled away altogether. Other houses had finger-thick holes in the walls, the outcome of residents trying to hammer nails in. There are sanitation issues too — the water pipe has been laid underground a foot away from the sewage pipe."

Sometimes I think Bhopal is a sign-board, a laser beam that points to the fact that we have made a mockery of ourselves, nationhood, democracy. Whatever our 'Indian values' comprise, justice doesn't seem to be on the list.


Hari Batti said...

Agree. A sign-board, a laser beam, a mockery.

Banno said...

True, Annie. It's a mockery.

Sumeet said...

Rs. 300 for a pension is not bad at all.

This may seem bad from upper middle class standards, but when the amount of resource allocation is decided and a public law is passed in the Parliament, it will always take into account the total resource that the government has and divide it by the number of needy.

The fact of the matter is that India, despite all the hyperbole, remains an extremely poor, underdeveloped third world nation, with illiteracy, no rule of law and lack of institutional frameworks plaguing most parts of the country.

So instead of considering this as a violation of justice, it is possible to re frame the issue and conceive it as a severe and unfortunate tragic constraint that an extremely resource poor country needs to undergo, which would only be redeemed if a reasonable amount of economic progress occurs.

Anonymous said...

sumeet. two things. one, re your conviction that rs 300 is not bad at all. tell me, if you were chronically ill and unable to work, could you and your family survive on a rs 300 pension? if not, spare us the glibness with which you advocate this harsh fate on the bhopalis.

two, is the allocation low only because india is a resource poor country? i don't think so. i think the issue lies in how we want to use the public exchequer. in this case, the MP government wanted to spend rs 113 cr on a memorial to the gas leak, but budgeted just rs 50 cr for decontaminating the groundwater. similarly, why is it ok to spend crores on the commonwealth games in delhi at the time when fellow citizens are struggling to live 700 kilometres away in Bhopal?

on the whole, when i look at how we have treated the victims of the gas leak, i wonder what those choices (on how to use the public exchequer) say about the kind of country we are.


sumeet said...


thanks for the reply! I understand that I am not on the 'ground', so the perspective I give is only partial. I just wish to convey that it is not meant to be offensive.

(1)Rs. 350 pension:

I meant to say that it is enough, considering the amount of funds that the government has. Advocating, that the amount be increased cannot be done without understand the exact amount of money.

As I was saying that given the WAY laws are made, they are passed in the Parliament, where representatives from all states participate.

If the bhopalis feel offended about the allocation, they should politically organize themselves better to get their voices heard in the Parliament. It is THEIR responsibility to get their fair share, because the share is never given in a parliamentary democracy, it has to be taken by political organization.

The bhopalis need to PROVE that they deserve more money.

(2) Private donations:

I understand that this money is extremely less considering the gravity of the situation.

In the case the government funds are insufficient, private donations are other methods to get the money to the ground using non profits.

The government allows creation of such non profit institutions and gives them generous tax benefits, so that they can operate without interference from bureaucratic and political channels.

(3) MP government mishandling:

I agree that money has been disproportionately allocated by the MP government. I am sorry that since the decision was made by the people of MP to select their state representatives, they have to argue/question/criticize their decision.

As a non MP citizen I cannot criticize the decision

(4) Commonwealth etc. allocation:

Personally I think that commonwealth games are extremely important for the nation.

Improving the image of the country not only helps in a better international visibility but gives a great boost to industries like tourism, recreation and leisure which employ people across all sections of the society, creating a large number of jobs for the people.

In conclusion, I would still stick by my argument this is NOT a travesty of justice.

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