By Amar Tejaswi:
The onset of the monsoon always brings us heavenly joy. The smell that emanates when the rain meets the earth keeps lingering in the mind for a long time. It doesn’t matter anymore though. The rain has lost its soul, or is it we who have lost our souls. Either ways, the fragrance is gone; its memory still remains, tucked away in some corner of the brain. These days, although it is still the monsoon season, the air smells of paranoia. In Bhopal though, the air will always smell of methyl isocyanide, the deadly chemical that devoured twenty thousand lives and continues to savour countless more.
Over the past month, the Bhopal gas tragedy issue has once again re-emerged from the abyss. It has done so several times in the last twenty-six years only to fade away into oblivion without a conclusion, without relief in any form for the affected people. This time the media brought it up and made the most of it.
Watching the media recital of the tragedy makes you wonder at their subtlety. Decorating their studios with the most horrendous of pictures of the affected people, the first question all the presenters ask is, “Who is to be blamed for the Bhopal Gas tragedy?”. This lone question shows the way our mind is tuned. Twenty-six years on we are still trying to blame someone for the accident. We are still busy in our search for the scapegoat who can be sacrificed to public wrath. The blame is put on several people, from former Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Politicians in New Delhi are so busy playing the blame game – along with the media which is newest player on the field – that the people suffering in Bhopal are almost forgotten.
The fact that the Union Carbide plant has not yet been cleaned screams aloud that we are the most apathetic and passive people in the world. Why doesn’t the ostensibly sagacious media realise that by asking for Anderson’s extradition and more monetary relief from the company, we are making a caricature of ourselves. When Anderson should have been arrested and tried, he was allowed to walk free and now when there is no merit in getting him, they want him tried. The $400 million liability that the government then accepted was fixed by the Supreme Court itself. By terming the liability a pittance now, we are sounding as naÃ¯ve as we can. All along the focus has been on Anderson, Union Carbide and the politicians. As I said, the people suffering in Bhopal are almost forgotten.
Now the onus is on the government. Its reputation and credibility are dancing on the boundaries of peril. If at all the government intends to do anything for the people affected by the tragedy, the act must be undertaken immediately. It is already twenty-six years late. On the other hand if the government doesn’t have anything on its mind for Bhopal, better tell them so and let their hope die.
Each time Mumbai is struck by a terrorist attack, the people of the city are lauded for bouncing back the next day. But what about the people of Bhopal, who can never bounce back? What about the people of Bhopal, from whose lives normalcy has departed forever. They most certainly deserve more than just terror filled lives. For the media though, I have one request: stop weighing tragedies in TRP ratings.
The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.