Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): On December 3 every year, city recalls the gas tragedy. And forgets it. But thousands of survivors remember the night of December 2-3, 1984, everyday and every hour. Not only because it took away their near and dear ones but also because they continue to face its after-effects. From body pain to cancer, from breathlessness to reduced vision, they are suffering. Thirty-nine years after methyl isocyanate gas leaked from Union Carbide plant in the city, those who inhaled it are still suffering. The state government has a separate department for gas relief and dedicated hospitals for treating them. But their pain and ailments remain. Here is a profile of four women victims.
‘Somehow, we are living’
Shahjehan Bi (60) lives with her widowed daughter Shaheen and latter’s five children near Galla Mandi in Barkhedi. Shahjehan had four children - Shaheen and three sons. The poisonous gas killed her sons and husband. Four of children of Shaheen were stillborn and her husband died 10 years back. Shahjehan can hardly walk following a surgery. Shaheen always feels tired, is diabetic and hypertensive. All the seven now survive on earnings from a grocery shop. “I don’t have money for my daughter’s wedding. We are just living, somehow,” Shaheen said.
Prem Bai Awasthi, in her mid-seventies lives alone in Aishbagh. When the tragedy struck, she used to live with her brother’s family in Ghora Nakkas. She had no children and her husband was dead. Now, she is dependent on her neighbours for her frequent visits to Shakir Ali Khan Hospital. She is hard of hearing and her bones are weak. She can’t walk. She has nieces and nephews but they have almost abandoned her. “If you don’t have money, no one cares for you,” she said.
Takes 8-10 tablets daily
Ruksana Bi was a 25-year-old in 1984. She lived in Congress Nagar, Qazi Camp, with her husband and five children. Like 10,000 of city’s residents, they also ran for life on that night. Her husband died in 1986 as his lungs were damaged. She, somehow, brought up her children. She suffers from fatigue, insomnia, knee pain and low vision. She lives with her son. “I take 8-10 tablets everyday but I never feel fine,” she says.
Zindagi bas chal rahi hai
Saleha (55) lived with her husband at Lakherapura when the tragedy struck. They were married for two years at the time. She was pregnant and her first child died in the womb. Of her six children, three passed away in subsequent years. Her husband is a property dealer. “Woh bhi hamesha bimar rahte hain aur mai bhi. Zindagi bas chal rahi hai,” she says.