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News18 » Videos » News18 Shorts

Scars of Bhopal gas leak still fresh for victims

Jun 07, 2010 10:40 PM IST India India
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Bhopal: The deadly methly isocynate gas leaked from a tank of the Union Carbide India Limited plant in Bhopal on the intervening night of December 2 and 3, 1984 and killed thousands of people. It was a night no one in Bhopal will ever forget. At 1 am that night, as Bhopal was in panic, nine-month pregnant Panno Devi was lying unconscious on the road at Oriya basti, not far from the UCIL factory poisoned by the gas in the air. When she regained consciousness she was told she had given birth to a boy. The NCC cadets who had helped told her that the boy had already been named - Zeher (poison) Lal. "I could just hear people screaming "the gas is leaking". People came and helped me. Around midnight my boy was born. When people asked me what my son's name was, the volunteers named my son Zeher Lal," she says. In the years ahead, Zeher Lal didn't grow up to be a strapping son. His name wasn't his only handicap. He is now asthmatic and has severe respiratory problems, unable to work for more than a few days at a time as a casual labourer. "These 25 years have been terrible for me. I can't change my name. What can I do if I have this name?" Lal laments. In the same colony that night, another child was born - a girl. Her mother named her Gas Devi. Both the children had no say in being named this way… "In any case the gas had hit my brains so I was not thinking," says Nirmati Devi, Gas Devi's mother. Dr. DK Satpathy was at home that night when he got a call from his senior that there was trouble. He was told to just run to the hospital. At the government run Hamidia Hospital near the Union Carbide factory he was just not prepared for what he saw. "The people were coughing and moving haphazardly. The campus was full of patients. It was like a picture of war with refugees every where, people were crying and some had lost the whole family," says Dr. Satpathy, That day at Hamidia Hospital people from all over Bhopal trooped in, some needing help, others offering it. Aditya Manya Jain is one of Bhopal's leading stock brokers. In 1984 he was in charge of an NCC unit in Bhopal. He can handle stock market ups and downs, but not the memories of 1984. "I remember this day every year. I don't think about it or talk about it. I didn't know who was dying - Hindu or Muslim. Maybe Muslims were being cremated, Hindus were being buried, even the kids. People pitched in, people gave clothes," he recounts choking with emotion. Now 26 years later Gas Devi, Zeher Lal and their families and neighbours in surrounding colonies still grapple with the devastating consequences. Health complications crop up regularly and no one knows what to expect next. In many ways they know they are forgotten, and closure a distant dream.