Feb 27 2014 by Bhopal Medical Appeal
FREE FILM SCREENING: BHOPALI
Thursday, February 27, 2014 7-9pm
The Banshee Labyrinth, Niddry St, Edinburgh
The Bhopali and Scottish Communities in Solidarity
An opportunity to discuss social responsibility. A platform for change. A group of activists and friends seeking justice for those affected by the worst gas disaster in history.
December 3, 1984 – Present
Bhopal, India – Edinburgh, Scotland
Facebook Group: Scottish Friends of Bhopal: Saathi Groups
Feb 27 2014 by Bhopal Medical Appeal
I am in my final week of work at Sambhavna and it is raining. Not that I think the two are related but it has been something like the wettest winter ever and the coldest.
I remember when I went to live in Greece that it was in the wettest winter for something like 80 years and the following year was the coldest for about 50.
Maybe they are related.
On 19 Feb, I wrote in my diary that it seemed as if my final two weeks were going to be a series of ‘Indian’ days as I had another one today! In the end that day, I did 9 sessions but the first two didn’t come, though Sunil, who should have come at 08:35 and had missed a couple of sessions, came at about 11:30 but had to wait until 13:00 as Anwar and Saligram were on time. Amzad also came at the same time – he had missed two sessions also so I had put someone else in his old slot and had to reschedule him for tomorrow. I rather suspect that he had been pain free but the pain has returned, as I could expect if we haven’t had enough sessions to complete fully. So he came along again saying he felt a burning sensation down the right side of his neck. His symptoms go back a year but flared up a week or so ago.
Then I slotted in Sunil and arranged him for 08:30 tomorrow so he can go to work afterwards. Will he come? Then Shabnam came over to say there was a new patient waiting! Shabiha is a very serious case so I hope we can help in the seven days I have remaining. Her MRI report shows neck and lumbar spine problems with disk desiccation and bulging as well as several other issues.
Surprisingly, the next day everyone turned up on time!
This week, my final before I am off to Vietnam on a course and the ‘Indian’ flavour is getting hotter. Not only that but I have had three new patients this week! I’m not sure what I can do with such little time. However one has not even come for his first appointment.
Aziza said “you have a patient waiting. An old man.” That ‘old man’, I said is a year younger than I am! That set me to thinking about the appearance of people here because this is not the first time for this sort of remark.
What is it that makes some people ‘older’ than others? Often not just in appearance but also in attitude and behaviour? I would guess that poverty has much to do with it, especially here. Then how about expectation? Lifestyle, family and work, nutrition, opportunity and the way s/he is treated?
Maybe there is an entire book in those thoughts.
Some more things you might not know
· it was between 3,000 and 15,000 that died on 3 December, depending on who is counting.
· that at least another 20,000 have died since as a direct result.
· that many families had only one parent surviving and some families were wiped out.
· the compensation went to only 573,588 of the victims. About $500 equivalent each.
· the compensation works out to 3p if spread to all the people who should have received it.
· these people will suffer* for the rest of their lives. And some of them are still in their early 30s.
· about the water pollution because toxic chemicals dumped on and around the site have been washed into the ground water source.
· that these poisonous chemicals and heavy metals are still being washed into the soil and spreading the water pollution by 200 metres every year.
· that people still have to drink this water.
· that babies born to parents exposed to the gas or water are several times more likely than babies in the rest of India to have some form of congenital malformation**.
· that no-one knows when this inheritance will stop. If ever. Probably never.
· that Dow Chemical bought UCC in 2001 and refuses to accept any liability.
· that Dow still will not tell the Indian Government the exact gases to which people were exposed to and their effects on the body.
And it’s raining lots here!
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Feb 18 2014 by Bhopal Medical Appeal
Press Statement released by combined organisations fighting for rights of those affected by Union Carbide’s poisons in Bhopal
February 17, 2014
Hundreds of residents of the area around the abandoned Union Carbide factory in Bhopal today demonstrated at the Directorate of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation demanding free medical care and rehabilitation, adequate supply of clean drinking water at minimum cost and effective drainage system in their area.
The demonstration was led by five organizations of the city that are working for the welfare of the survivors of the December 1984 gas leak from the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal. Leaders of the organizations handed over a memorandum with their four demands to the Commissioner, Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation during the three hour long demonstration that included a photo exhibition on the problems of toxic pollution.
The organizations said that the Madhya Pradesh government’s Public Health & Engineering Department had declared the ground water near the Union Carbide factory to be chemically polluted as early as 1991.In 2006, the Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, a scientific agency of the state government had highlighted that in comparison to an unexposed population, the residents of the communities affected by contamination of ground-water had higher incidence of illnesses of the lungs, eyes, gastro-intestinal system and skin.
the organizations stated that as per the latest report of the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, Lucknow of January 2013, about 50 thousand people in 22 communities were affected by the contamination of ground-water due to hazardous waste from the Union Carbide factory.
The residents demanded free medical care at the hospitals meant for gas victims for the illnesses caused by chronic exposure to Union Carbide’s poisons in their drinking water. They also demanded free facilities for medical rehabilitation of the hundreds of children who were being born with disabilities as a consequence of the slow poisoning of their parents.
The organizations complained that despite several orders of the Supreme Court of India, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department of the state government had failed to complete the project of supplying clean drinking water through pipelines to every family affected by toxic contamination.
They complained that 60 families in Annu Nagar, 15 in Shankar Nagar and 5 families in Shiv Nagar did not have tap connections and hundreds of families in Jayprakash Nagar, Karim Baksh Colony, Shakti Nagar, Kainchi Chhola and Shiv Nagar were not being supplied with water in the newly connected taps. Likewise in hundreds of homes in Jayprakash Nagar, Kainchi Chhola, Preet Nagar, Shiv Nagar and Shakti Nagar, the water pressure is so low that people do not have adequate amount of water for their basic needs.
The organizations pointed out that families in the area affected by contamination of ground water due to Union Carbide’s hazardous wastes are being served with bills worth thousands of rupees as payment for water supply. They said that the state government that was aware of the toxic contamination as early as 1991 must accept its role in the ongoing environmental disaster and ensure that beneficiaries of clean water supply are made to pay only the minimum amount of Rs.30 per month.
The residents complained that because of the absence of drainage facilities areas like Nawab Colony, Blue Moon Colony, Annu Nagar, Sundar Nagar, Shiv Shakti Nagar, Preet Nagar and Shiv Nagar remained waterlogged causing a public health problem due to malaria and other diseases. They demanded that state government make arrangements for adequate drainage as per the recommendation of the Supreme Court appointed Monitoring Committee led by Justice K.K. Lahoti.
Photos: (c) Sanjay Verma 2014
Jan 28 2014 by Bhopal Medical Appeal
Scottish Friends of Bhopal, in association with Edinburgh University’s International Development Week, participated in a workshop series highlighting the history of Bhopal and ongoing efforts for justice. Lorraine Close, a nurse who volunteered at the Sambhavna Clinic for six months, shared her experiences and encouraged dialogue within the small groups.
Students learned that the impact of the 1984 disaster is ongoing as Ingrid Neil, the BMA Scottish Project Worker, underscored its relevance in the local context. Interactive discussions offered students the opportunity to ask questions, challenge perceptions, and learn about tangible ways to get involved—including joining at saathi, or friend, group on campus.
The goal is to promote collaboration: to ensure the network of support for the Bhopali people is strong and active. The Scottish Friends of Bhopal are currently working with Medsin, a student network and charity that tackles global and local health inequalities through education, advocacy, and community action. The two groups are working together to organize a free screening of Bhopali on February 27th at the Banshee Labyrinth in Edinburgh.
Jan 23 2014 by Bhopal Medical Appeal
End of Nov. I returned to Sambhavna. It’s been 8 months since I left. What has happened?
My coming here was heart fully greeted. Immediately I felt at home. Still there is a lot of work in the “Garden”. Actually it is a farm growing medical herbs. “Planting a Garden is to believe in tomorrow”
Much of what I had built last time, was still standing. We re-use a lot of material and sometimes the heavy rain from the Monsoon just takes it away. For my work I needed some tools I couldn’t find here. Therefore I bought them and brought them here. From Sweden no problem. I could explain the purpose. From Mumbai to Bhopal I had to go by bus. I wasn’t even allowed entrance to the airport due to the dangerous weapon in my suitcase.
For little more than two months I have worked in the “Garden”. The workforce here do an outstanding job and I try to assist them. Now I have learned to do it the best way, Indian way. My skills are very accurate in Sweden but here things are different. Little by little I have been adapted, and I learn from them every day.
If I have my health and the money I sure come back. Dec. 1, 2, and 3 with rally, torch march and a lot of things to make everyone remember Union Carbide gas disaster.
Whatever happens I will always stay close to Sambhavna and its tremendous work.
This I will describe in English and Latin. Name, use and how to extract, which part etc. all to be put in a booklet.
Jan 17 2014 by Bhopal Medical Appeal
What’s On in Bhopal 1
Sambhavna, November 17 2013, 07:30 – I have just arrived at the Sambhavna clinic in Bhopal, for my second visit. It is a warm morning by the standards of an Englishman but getting that autumnal chilliness for the local people. It was almost exactly two years ago to the day that I left and had noticed it slowly getting cooler.
Monday is back to work day here after the one day of rest each week. Yes, they still work a 6-day week. It will be an hour before the clinic opens to patients so it is fairly quiet as I say hello once again to Raj, the security guard, who was also the first to welcome me just over two years ago.
Observation Room, January 16 2014, 08:40 – it is almost two months since I arrived here since when it has got colder and we have even had a couple of downpours of rain. But “cold” is, of course, relative and your lawns and tomatoes would still be growing outside. As I wait for my 304th patient session since beginning treatments, what has happened here?
Just to clarify the last sentence, I am a complementary therapist in UK and am working here with the agreement and support of the doctors and Sathyu. In fact the doctors seem to be sending me all the difficult cases! Stroke, scoliosis, kyphosis, frozen shoulder etc but that gives me a challenge (sorry, opportunity) which I enjoy.
I should also say that there are two physical therapists here, working with the Ayurveda system of Panchakarma and doing great work for many years. They are the real heroes, working day after day, week after week, year after year, while I just flit in for a few months and, like a grandfather giving the grandchildren back to their parents, shall flit back home to the comforts of central heating and hot showers on demand.
There is a difference in the way we work and what we do though which makes my work valuable here. Panchakarma, as practised here, is mainly about getting an oil, impregnated with 23 herbs, into the tissues of a patient’s body by massage and steam. My work is about restoring balance to a body by releasing overtight tissue and then encouraging freer movement and realignment of the skeleton through whole body healing. So we can complement each other with our work.
In the two years since my previous visit, much has remained the same and there are changes too. Many old friends to meet again, many new ones to get to know, including a new washing machine! In the volunteer rooms there has been much activity in two months. On my arrival there were just two volunteers, both from India – something new to me, Devendra and Harshit. I was soon to learn that some mothers here teach their sons how to cook, since that evening Jayshree, who cooks each evening for the volunteers, announced she would not be back for four days. We enjoyed trying each others cooking and discussing spices but the ‘British’ dish they really liked was cauliflower cheese.
Thorsten, from Sweden, joined us the following week, another returning volunteer, he had come to help again in the garden. There is always a need there. Pradeep, another Indian, also arrived.
Shortly after we were overrun by 14 young American women with one lonely young man plus two teacher/facilitators. They were in India on a study tour in collaboration with a school in Bangalore and were visiting many projects around the country. They swept in for an exhausting four days and it was a good thing the female dormitory was empty at the time. Yes, we were all male volunteers.
Since then there has been a steady increase in volunteer arrivals, including a host (it seems) of researchers. Accommodation is fairly limited here so it is important that arrivals and departures are managed, which doesn’t always happen – so, if you are thinking of coming here ask if there is room, check what that means, and be prepared to be flexible on your dates.
Also take some lessons in communal living and putting the needs of others first – it would seem it does not come naturally to most people! If we cannot clean up the kitchen behind ourselves, how can we challenge Dow to clean up the factory site? Sometimes there is a disconnect.
Social life depends really on who is here. Sometimes it is very quiet and at others we are out on all kinds of trips. We had a group outing to Sanchi, a nearby Buddhist site and another to the caves at Bimbetka. I have been with various others to the Museum of Mankind and a recent 3-night festival of Khatack dance. Some of this I write about on my blog and for some you will have to wait for the book.
Incidentally, one volunteer discovered the book of my last visit and said she found it interesting and also helpful in her preparing to come here. (It’s called 3 Months in Bhopal and is available as a kindle from Amazon – all profit to the Bhopal Medical Appeal.)
So what about the actual work here for volunteers? After all this is the focus of your visit. This is another reason why you must arrange your visit dates as the staff here really cannot cope with too many simultaneous volunteers. It matters not whether you have special skills or not, there will almost certainly be something you can do. My case is a bit different as I am doing treatments and, before my first visit, I went through a process of e-discussion with Sathyu about what it is that I do and then with the doctors. They need to know I am an ‘OK’ guy and my work is effective.
The garden always seems to need help, and you don’t have to be a gardener either, though on my last visit, Linda was here and she is a gardener in UK. I tell Sathyu the walls could do with a lick of paint but the question we need to ask is whether it would be better to employ a local person so would a donation be better? My take is that the best work for volunteers is that for which there is no ready local skill and where there is a well-defined task. Support in the library can often be beneficial, especially if you have computer skills. There is about to be a digitisation project started which will take several years to complete and I am sure there will come along tasks associated with that which will be ideal for volunteers.
Helen, here at the moment has a well-defined job of re-painting some of the signs giving information about plants – these are for patient information and helping picking them. Such one-off tasks are also very helpful to the staff. Helen, and her husband Paul, are apparently the first volunteers here from New Zealand.
Check back here at the beginning of February for another update or keep in touch more frequently (if erratic) with my blog at http://abhopaldiary.blogspot.co.uk/ and ‘like’ my facebook page, Bhopal Today. Spreading the word about the long-term results of this disaster is the most important thing you can do – where it will go you do not know.
Jan 9 2014 by Bhopal Medical Appeal
Last year the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre was lucky enough to be visited by a remarkable young woman. Here is the story of Surabhi’s experience in her own words:
“A few months ago, I came across the documentary ‘Bhopali’ by Van Maximilian Carlson that educated me about the current effects of the 1984 disaster. Before moving to Singapore, I lived in Bhopal for a good part of my life. I visit it every year. I call it my hometown; and yet, I was never aware of the fact that so many still suffered from the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. It came to me almost as a shock. The documentary also introduced Chingari Trust as an organization working to help the affected kids. Being highly inspired by their work, I decided to visit it during my summer break with my dad on our week-long trip to Bhopal.
On my 5-day visit to Chingari, I took interviews, photos and videos of the centre. During this I got to meet many inspiring individuals. On my last day, I held an art workshop for the kids and decided to sponsor a week’s mid-day meal. I had had a life changing experience. I aspired to work for Chingari as a part of my school project back in Singapore. I acknowledged Chingari of my plan to raise money at school by selling self-made products. They responded to my offer very positively, motivating me further.
Upon returning to Singapore, I combined all the recordings and photos taken at Chingari into a short educational video that I showed to some staff members at my school (ISS International School, Singapore). Being very impressed and touched by it, they encouraged me to carry out a school wide campaign that would help raise funds. I themed the campaign black and white and called it ‘Help Chingari. Help save a life.’ I hand-made 150 key chains and got 100 originally designed t-shirts printed. A lot of publicising was done before the sales. Posters were put up around the school and I gave presentations that also showcased the video, to all the grade levels. The sales went better than expected. I managed to sell 200 key chains and 140 t-shirts. On 6th December, our school held a day where everyone paid a dollar to wear black and white or the t-shirts I had sold.
At the end, I had unexpectedly raised $3,200. To use this amount in the best possible way, I decided to buy Chingari a van. They use vans to transport kids to and from the centre each day. I thought it would be a great way to contribute. After checking with Chingari if this would be a good use of the funds, we bought them a Maruti Omni Van. The van can now accommodate about 40 kids each day. I am very gratified to have had an opportunity to use my skills to help such a noble organization.”
Chingari is a very special place and as such seems to attract some amazing people. We are incredibly grateful for the way that Surabhi took Chingari, and all of the children to her heart, and the way she translated this into a practical project with a tremendous outcome of real benefit to all of the kids at Chingari and their families. Our congratulations, and heart-felt thanks, go to Surabhi for her inspiration and her hard work.
Surabhi’s publicity poster showing the excellent t-shirt designs
Surabhi handing over the keys to the van
Surabhi’s key fob designs