The following report is from Dichha, a class XI Nepali student, one of a group of students fr0m the Mahindra United World College of India (this is one of 14 world colleges built with funds from the Mahindra family) who went to Bhopal in November 2010 .
During my project week to Bhopal, I got a wonderful opportunity to go to the Chingari Trust. This is a clinic that is commited to helping the survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide Factory gas leak in Bhopal, India. It mainly looks after the welfare of children who are born with genetic defects such as cleft lips, twisted feet and various other diseases that are caused by this disaster. These children are the new generation of the gas disaster’s victims and are suffering similar traumas due to certain diseases that are genetic, and also the new developed diseases such as defects in the brain and weak bone formation due to the consumption of the contaminated underground water. The water is contaminated by the unwise disposal of toxic wastes in the factory before the disaster even happened.
In this NGO I easily mingled with the children. As I had volunteered in a similar NGO, Karuna Vihar that looks after the welfare of the physically and mentally-challenged children during my winter holiday (when I was grade nine) I already had experience of being friendly with and taking care of such children. I was very comfortable working with these children and also learnt more about the cruelty done by the factory to humanity.
I also met with one of the managing trustees, Champa Devi (left: Diccha, Champa Devi and Nazia). She and Rashida Bi won the 2004 Goldman Environment Prize also known as the alternate Nobel Prize for the Environment. Champa is also a survivor of the disaster and is one of the leading activists of struggle for justice for the people of Bhopal. I found her brave and courteous as she has struggled her whole life against the mighty company. She has been to various centers of the world that have connections with the factory to petition Dow to clean up Bhopal.
Here at Chingari I met many children and mothers. These children were mainly from the Muslim community as the affected area was mainly Muslim residents. I became more aware of the catastrophe as I heard real life stories from the rickshaw driver and the whole community. The night of the leaking of the poisonous gas, methyl isocynate, was a night that caused human massacre. It seemed like Hitler killing people in the concentration camps, but more lethal, because Hitler exists in this modern world.
I, along with mine friend Yumeka, taught the children simple origami and painting. The art of colour was the activity that was most enjoyed by the children. Due to the Muslim festival Id-Ul-Joha and the school holiday I could work with the children for only three days. Though I could not contribute much by working for such a small time, all members of this project week team had a deep impression to fight against the corporations that function in breach of humanity.
As the writer Paulo Coelho says: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” We have a conviction that the people of Bhopal will get justice even after the 26th year of struggle. If it goes otherwise, then it is up to us to consider whether this world is a safe place to live or not. That lies entirely upon us, the present generation.