Features Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | November 11, 2014 | 01:31 pm IST The night of December 2, 1984 changed the lives of five women living in Bhopal forever.  Thirty years down the line, they have come together for the same reason in protest against the government demanding better compensation for an industrial disaster, one of the world's worst  â€“ the Union Carbide factory gas leak . Even as about a 100 protesters gathered in New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar demanding justice for a disaster that killed thousands and physically affected many more, the effects of which are seen till date, these five women are anonymously fasting amidst the crowd as they demand better and fairer compensation. Vishnu Panthi, aged 50 as described by the protesters through a press statement is a woman who used to live with a large joint family. Three children of her elder sister died that night. Her husband was badly affected and was diagnosed with TB after a few years. Unable to continue with manual labour for his livelihood, their children had to drop out of school due lack of money. She has received just Rs 25,000 as compensation even though her children had to discontinue school as the father could no longer work. Panthi says, “If I die the government will be to blame. I am tired of the falsehoods of our government. The Chief Minister made a promise of Rs. 5 lakhs to each affected person and then betrayed that promise.” Shezadi Bee, aged 59 has been described as a woman who was lucky to survive the disaster. That night she ran with her husband and four children and escaped in a truck. She still remembers the two neighbours who died in the truck. She suffers from chest pain, impaired vision and burning in the stomach, her husband has TB. She has received only Rs. 25 thousand as compensation. Premlata Chaudhary, aged 66 has six children, one died the night of the gas leak. Her mother who was visiting her went missing. The story is the same in her case too. A weak husband could not go to work any longer and children had to discontinue their studies. Her sons, all affected by the gas leak are unable to work, the desperation caused her daughter to commit suicide. Kasturi Bai, aged 65 has lost two daughters to the gas tragedy. Her husband too was badly affected,  has had several attacks of paralysis and today suffers from breathlessness, burning in the chest and stomach problems. She has received only 25 thousand rupees as compensation. Bai said, “Our neneighborhood was among the worst hit by the poisonous gas from Union Carbide. Yet 91 % of residents in our neighborhood have been categorized as only temporarily injured by the government. I am happy to be doing something to correct this terrible wrong.” Kamla Bai Airhwar, aged 70 is a mother of five children, four sons. She says, "Mother of 4 sons is considered blessed but because of the disaster I have a cursed life. I want to tell the government that we are dying anyway – this way at least my death will make a difference," she says. Her husband has been consistently ill, two sons have TB.In 2010, the Group of Ministers in Bhopal decided to grant additional compensation of Rs. one lakh to survivors, but as many as 93 per cent of the survivors were left out of this. Atleast a thousand survivors of the disaster took part in the second day of the protests at Jantar Mantar. Mostly women, more numbers are expected on Wednesday.  Devendra Panchal, an activist with the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh for the last three years claimed that in the past the local MLA had in writing assured the gas-affected people that he would ensure that their demands were met. “back then, he used to say that the Congress government at the centre wasn’t listening to him. Now that is not the case, is it? It's not as if Modiji will refuse to listen to him,” Panchal said.
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