Josh Moos and Lucie Kinchin (23 & 21) have been volunteering at Sambhavna for the last month.
How did you come to arrive at Sambhavna?
We were volunteering as recyclers at the Glastonbury Festival in 2010 and that was where we first heard about Bhopal [we’re now now recruiting litterpicker volunteers for 2011]. We had been planning to travel but weren’t sure where to go. We figured we could travel overland to India, visit Sambhavna and raise money for the Clinic at the same time. We had wanted to be involved with a grassroots organisation and were impressed by both the local achievements and the Trust’s awareness and analysis of the larger global issues and injustices surrounding Bhopal.
What are you hoping to achieve during your time at Sambhavna?
We are hoping to make a documentary about Sambhavna exploring the reasons for its existence and what happens here, in order to provide information on the BMA website that is easily accessible to casual browsers. We feel that many people are not aware of the ongoing situation in Bhopal, and in the UK, people of our generation are not even aware of the initial event. We hope that using multimedia stimuli will allow people who prefer to watch short video clips to access information, as they may not be inclined to read through long and detailed texts.
What were your first impressions of Sambhavna?
On first sight, it is a haven of tranquility in the midst of pollution and deprivation. We arrived on New Year’s Eve and were promptly swept off to a party so our first impressions were somewhat skewed!
And now. . .?
Sambhavna has a lot to offer. From our interviews we realise how much work people actually do here. The standard of care is undoubtably higher than anywhere else in Bhopal, even when it’s paid for privately. It is an amazing place. Having only really experienced the way things work in the West, it has been challenging working within Indian structure and bureaucracy. We have however, learned from this experience.
Do you think the media coverage in the UK of the issues on Bhopal is accurate, and adequate?
There is NOT enough coverage at all, and what does exist is not accurate enough. However, this is to be expected from corporate media dominated by vested interests from capitalist companies. The more radical left-wing media has more coverage, but it is still not adequate and there are many issues in Bhopal that are not covered at all. The fact that the roles that Union Carbide and the government play in what happened here is not emphasised enough becomes clear once you realise the staggering levels of collusion and corruption that exist.
What would you like to say to people who are considering volunteering at Sambhavna?
BRING YOUR LAPTOP AND BACK UP EVERYTHING YOU DO! (you would be right to assume that Josh and Lucie have lost a considerable amount of time due to computer meltdowns, ‘lost’ cables and lack of internet connection. I’ve heard the screams and seen the headbanging and it isn’t pretty!) Do as much background reading as you can. We didn’t and we definitely wish we had. Lastly, don’t expect to come here and change the world. You will leave frustrated and disappointed.
And to people reading the BMA website?
Please find out about what happened here and spread the word. Often people are concerned that the money they may consider donating to a charity ends up in the wrong place. At Sambhavna you can be sure that your money goes directly to the people who need it. You can do more than donate money though: show your support and take action. Do a workshop about the fallacies of corporate responsibility and the dire consequent impact on humanity, or even help to organise a demonstration outside the Dow office closest to you.
What global lessons are there to be learned from Bhopal and do you think the right lessons are presently being learned?
Multi-national companies will ALWAYS put profit generation before anything else, and when social responsibility interferes with this it will inevitably be subordinated. Ultimately corporate social responsibility only exists to create more profit for companies. So far it seems that the usual lessons have been learned from Bhopal regarding corporate social responsibility and the conduct of companies: corporations have once again been given the green light to pursue their motives at the expense of the environment and innocent people.
What are your hopes for the people of Bhopal?
That Union Carbide will clean up the site and compensate the people. That the government will provide people with clean water and change its policies on allowing multi-national corporations to abuse both people and land. One thing that has been frustrating is that people seem to accept the gas leak as the ‘will of God’. It would be good if people realised that this is not the case.
Josh has been involved in environmental campaigning for the last five years. After completing a BA in Sociology and an MA in International Relations, he worked as the national campaign co-ordinator for Plane Stupid , a non-violent direct action network.
Lucie has worked with various grassroots direct action organisations, campaigning against climate change. The overland journey home will take the couple through Iran, Turkey and Eastern and Western Europe, before returning to London, where Lucie will begin an MSc.