Bhopal- In the aftermath of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, the systemic negligence has endured, with victims' records still not digitized to this day. Recently, the MP-Jabalpur High Court bench criticized the state for its failure to appoint specialists and doctors in gas relief hospitals, delivering a strong reprimand to the government.
Eleven years ago, on August 9, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a directive to the Bhopal Gas Victims Hospital and other designated healthcare facilities, instructing them to provide essential facilities, appoint specialists and doctors, and initiate the digitization of patient records. Despite this mandate, the task remains incomplete, raising concerns about the long-standing challenges faced by the victims and the accountability of the authorities involved.
The government's apathy towards Supreme Court directives is evident as specialist positions stand at a staggering 76% vacancy, and doctor positions at 50% in Bhopal's gas relief hospitals. Shockingly, digitalization of patient records remains untouched. The Supreme Court had entrusted monitoring to the High Court through a committee, but a recent report disclosed appointments for only 498 out of 1,247 technical and non-technical posts. Smart cards for 3.41 lakh gas victims have been issued, yet the digitization process lags.
Justices Sheel Nagu and Devnarayan Mishra expressed dismay as digitization efforts remain incomplete even after a decade. The court reprimanded the government, questioning potential contempt action against all defendants. The High Court has set the next hearing for January 16, intensifying scrutiny on the prolonged negligence.
Rachna Dhingra, director of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, highlights the government's failure to fulfil Supreme Court orders from 2012 and 2018 regarding the digitization of gas victims' data. This lapse has resulted in victims being deprived of proper treatment and access to clean drinking water for years.
The pressing issue of groundwater contamination by Union Carbide waste persists, with waste burial around the factory polluting groundwater. Residents are compelled to consume contaminated water, as revealed in a previous groundwater investigation. Despite court directives to provide pure drinking water in affected areas, the government continues to neglect this crucial responsibility, perpetuating the suffering of the community.
The night of December 2, 1984, marked a devastating chapter in history as the Bhopal gas tragedy unfolded, claiming thousands of lives and leaving an indelible impact that endures to this day. As people slept, poisonous gas leaked from the Union Carbide factory, resulting in widespread death that swept through the city. The death toll surpassed 16,000, with survivors grappling with respiratory problems, eye irritation or blindness, and various other ailments.
The tragic consequences transcended that fateful night, affecting subsequent generations. Children born in Bhopal after the incident faced disabilities and a range of diseases, creating an alarming trend that continues. Many children are born with abnormalities in the affected areas, serving as sad reminder of the enduring impact of the Bhopal gas tragedy on the lives of the community.
'The Railway Men: The Untold Story of Bhopal 1984' is a 2023 Indian Hindi-language historical drama streaming television miniseries that sheds light on the heroic efforts of railway workers who played a pivotal role in saving lives during the tragic 1984 toxic gas leak at Union Carbide India Limited's plant in Bhopal. This production is brought to audiences by YRF Entertainment, the streaming division of Yash Raj Films, and features a stellar cast including R. Madhavan, Kay Kay Menon, Divyenndu, and Babil Khan. Sunny Hinduja and Juhi Chawla Mehta also contribute to the narrative in supporting roles.
The miniseries, filmed between December 2021 and May 2022, consists of four episodes and was made available for streaming on Netflix from November 18, 2023. "The Railway Men" pays tribute to the courage and resilience of the Indian railway workers who, in the face of danger, bravely assisted and saved numerous victims during the Union Carbide gas leak tragedy. The series captures the untold stories of these unsung heroes and highlights their crucial role in the midst of a devastating industrial disaster.
Story Translated by Geetha Sunil Pillai