The Bhopal Marathon: Under the Volcano (final part.)

Indra Sinha The Bhopal Marathon
Picture copyright Alex Masi/ Getty Grant for Good


In the final part of the story Indra Sinha, author of “Animal’s People” tells a story of continued cover-up over the toxic contamination in Bhopal.


LONG BEFORE ‘THAT NIGHT’ there had been troubling rumours, mysterious deaths of cattle grazing near the factory. A Bhopal lawyer called Babulal Gaur mediated a settlement between Union Carbide and the aggrieved farmers.

In 2004 Gaur became a minister in the local BJP government and to him fell the duty of caring for the city’s gas survivors. He told the Christian Science Monitor that the Union Carbide factory had contaminated the groundwater and complained that the previous Congress government had tried to hush the matter up.

In May 2004, India’s Supreme Court ordered the state to supply clean water to the poisoned communities. Gaur’s government ignored this order. A year passed and a group of women and children went to government offices to ask why nothing had been done. They were savagely beaten, punched and kicked by police. Weeks later Gaur, by now promoted to Chief Minister, announced an ambitious £120 million plan to beautify the city with ornamental fountains and badminton courts.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the gas leak, Gaur, demoted back to Gas Relief Minister, announced that he would open the derelict factory site to the public. There was no water contamination, he said. Displaying a curious naiveté, he told journalists that he had handled some waste and not become ill. A cynic remarked that this was like touching a cigarette and saying, ‘Look, I haven’t got lung cancer.’

Denying that contamination exists clearly serves the company’s interests. No doubt it is mere coincidence that Dow Chemical, owner of Union Carbide, has been making donations to Gaur’s party, the BJP. This sordid little tale is itself an echo of the bigger machinations going on at the centre, where Dow has been trying to twist the arm of Manmohan Singh’s Congress government into letting it off the Bhopal hook in return for a billion dollar investment in India.

Bhopal will not be healed, cured or cleaned, as long as the power-brokers and the money-brokers are allowed to get away with it. When people ask, why is the disaster continuing? why has the factory not been cleaned? why have Union Carbide and Dow Chemical not faced justice? the answer is this: Union Carbide’s victims are still dying in Bhopal because India itself is dying under the corrupt and self-serving rule of rotten leaders.

You can read the complete Bhopal Marathon publication online here 

Girl with candle Bhopal

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