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Bhopal Gas Tragedy

Affecting lives even today

3rd December is not an usual day for the people of Bhopal. It brings back to them the pain and trauma of something that happened 30 years ago.

On the night of 3rd December 1984, city of Bhopal experienced a real horror which terrifies it even today. At midnight, people of Bhopal woke up feeling their lungs burning as gas cloud took over the south-eastern part of the city. These vicious gases were denser than air, so they stayed close to the ground not giving people any chance of rescue. 700000 lives were affected, 200000 of them being children. Authorities claimed a number of 3928 casualties. The toll later increased up to 15000. 3900 suffered permanently disabling injuries and a size able number still hopes for a normal life.

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The cause of this disaster that happened that fateful night was the leakage of methylisocyanate gas with other vicious chemicals from tank E 610 during its cleaning process. The water which entered the tank through the rusty steel pipe reacted with the chemical, to form the deadly gas.  However, UCC (Union Carbide Corporation) claimed that it was an act of sabotage by an angry worker, who connected the water pipe to the gas tank that increased the temperature in the tank. Resultant, 30 metric ton gas was released in the vicinity in less than 60 minutes, causing the most fatal industrial disaster on earth.

The gas did not spare any soul, killing mercilessly anyone and everyone in the vicinity. Hundred thousands of people suffered ruthlessly. Thousands were dead and many affected by the exposure to gas as it harmed their internal organs like, lungs, brain, heart and eyes. The pregnant women who came in contact with the gas gave birth to babies who suffered from strange health and anatomical problems. Man and animal alike mourned for the devastation that happened.

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Though the gas plant was closed by the Indian Government immediately after this accident, it did not help much in reducing the misery of the localites of Bhopal. Despite the introduction of several healthcare relief measures, only a few actually worked. Different types of financial and health care help came from different countries. The Indian Government asked a compensation of 30 million dollars to from the Union Carbide Corporation (now Dow Chemicals) to clean the contaminated, but Dow Chemicals refused. It can become the cause of second big crisis for this and save many precious lives who are suffering for the last 30 years.

As for the judicial action, UCC chairman Warren Anderson was arrested immediately as he came to India after the disaster. He was put under house arrest by Madhya Pradesh police but was given a bail just after 6 hours, and was flown out of country in a government plane allegedly on the orders of the then Chief Minister of the state. Later in 1991, Warren Anderson was charged with manslaughter by a local court of Bhopal & he was declared a “fugitive”. After exact one year, the chief judicial magistrate of Bhopal and seven other employees of UCC were convicted with charges of death by negligence in 2010 by an Indian court. They were awarded imprisonment of two years each, but all of them got out on bail shortly. The victims of Bhopal gas tragedy said that verdict was too little, too late.

After 30 long years of the black night in the history of Bhopal, nothing seems to change till date. The flash of the memories reflected in the dewy eyes of the elderly is still looking for an answer to the disaster that struck them. The disabled babies that take birth in the city hospital cry for a safer environment and cleaner air to breathe.

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People are still asking for full compensation claiming help was not enough at that time. There is also a big concern over the chemical abandoned at the plant, which continue to contaminate the groundwater and the soil, being really hazardous for the people living there. However, it has also been reported that the contamination was not caused by gas leak. Many localites claim that ground was used as the dumping ground for vicious chemicals for years, which is now taking a toll on the lives of people, animals and plants of the nearby places.

This disaster did not occurred just on that night of December 3, 1984; it also gave most of the people a slow death as they suffered the loss of their own body parts, closer ones and the ghost of that night still keeps scaring them as they keep hoping for good compensation and justice in the right manner.