Sunday, June 20, 2010

Give me an O2 mask....I want to visit Bhopal!

I'm not mocking anyone when I say this....I'm actually serious when I say that I need an oxygen mask to guarantee safe and healthy passage across some places in the once mesmerizing city of Bhopal. Bhopal or the City of Lakes is the second largest city of Madhya Pradesh which is a famous tourist’s destination for its artistically built and exquisite Laxmi Narayan Temple, Taj-ul-Masjid, Moti Masjid, Shaukat Mahal, Upper lake, Lower lake, Van Vihar (Zoo), to name a few scenic and mostly visited and liked tourist spots.

But along with this awesome scenic beauty that this capital city of Madhya Pradesh exhibits, it also carries a “black spot” with its name, for being listed as a place which once dealt with and is still reeling over the worst industrial catastrophe in the world – “The Bhopal Gas Leak” – which killed a staggering 15000 people and paralysed and maimed thousands in Bhopal then.

The question is....what did we do about it then?
The dreadful Bhopal gas tragedy is something that didn’t happen today or something that occurred very recently. At this very moment, I’m writing about something that occurred 25yrs back in Dec 1984 at the pesticide production plant in Bhopal which was operated by Union Carbide India Ltd. (UCIL), an American subsidiary company owned by Union Carbide Corporation (UCC). Reckless decisions made by the management and faulty handling by operators resulted in the tragic leakage of the poisonous gas which spread across the length and breadth of the area surrounding the plant.

After a little over 25years of deep slumber and dwarfing of this entire tragedy by the authorities in India, the case resurfaced recently for the court hearing (verdict) upon the alleged convicts minus the Ex-CEO, Chairman and decision maker of the company, Mr. Warren Andersen, who although is equally responsible for the tragic gas leak...left India scot free to live in his home country. Doesn’t Mr. Andersen’s conscience kill him for being irresponsible and for recklessly taking thousands of innocent lives? Doesn’t this episode haunt him while he sits to have his meals in his plush bungalow in New York city? I wonder how he has merrily lived his life the last 25 years without being haunted for his misdeed???? (I know too many question marks typify bad writing, but believe me I quiet seriously have those many questions marks staring at me when I think of Mr. Andersen’s character and crude behaviour).

A full bodied post mortem
I don't seem to understand why nothing happened in the last 25years? Were the governing authorities so busy that they couldn't make the most important verdict in the world's worst “chemical disaster” by declaring quick punishments to the perpetrators?

In fact, it was better off if the legal proceedings of this case was handled by the US because I'm sure the American judiciary would ensure that a fair and objective verdict be given to the villains of this disaster...eventually giving justice to the victims and survivors of the Bhopal tragedy. Bringing to light the way President Obama diligently and equitably handled the recent oil spill case along the Gulf of Mexico....which is something that the world looks up to and genuinely applauds Obama for his realistic people management skills. For Obama and his administration, every decision is made keeping the country's citizens as the central focus....unlike some of our corrupt officials who can stoop to any level to make quick bucks at the cost of the nation.

Silencing the catastrophe to yield steep GDP’s
I have tremendous respect for some of the leading lights in the government today, but I don’t seem to understand why they silenced this issue for so long. Who told the authorities that the people of this country want to see only “good growth figures”, “industrial progress”, “sky rocketing GDP”, and “Indian’s rocketing to the moon and exploring space”. In fact, we want simple things for this nation. We want every human being in our country to breath in a pollution free and chemical free environment; we want to see every individual receiving at least two meals a day; we want basic health benefits for every citizen irrespective of whether he/she can afford the service or not; we want sanitised and clean municipal hospitals; and we want a safe and a clean city to live in and sustain this for the next generations to come.

After 25 years, today, the government has initiated a response cell called the “Group of Ministers” (GoM) which is made responsible to take stock of the recent Bhopal judgement and to assess the options and remedies available to the government. This group is formed, to basically initiate an action plan to cast off the toxic and contaminated mess in Bhopal and also guarantee hike in compensation to the victims and survivors of the tragedy. Surely a good move....but a step taken after so many years of the tragedy, speaks volumes about the self centred, corrupt, and egoistic side of our ministers.

Quick and ingenious actions required
Relocation and rehabilitation of the people is the need of the hour. So many people still live in the poisonous environment of Bhopal and even today children are born with psychological or physical disorders because of the toxic air that the survivors breathe in. How can we be so cruel to an unborn child and his mother? Additionally, the poisonous pesticide plant which is still spewing poisonous gases should be cracked open and the waste treated and discarded. Furthermore, health check-ups and safe medical treatment of each and every person living in the vicinity of the poisonous defunct plant should be on top of the list.

I am pretty speculative of the investigative report that will be submitted to the Prime Minister by the GoM. Sources say that GoM will prepare their reports after investigating the Bhopal situation from ground zero for a week. Only if our authorities had spent the same 7 days way back in the 1980’s when the tragedy had just struck the poor people of Bhopal in the wee hours of the night.......we wouldn’t have lost so many lives and would have done justice to the survivors then.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Do write to me with your reactions, opinions or critical comments at simplymearl@live.com or leave your inputs in the comments tab below.

Before I sign out, as I always say take very good care of yourself and God Bless!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

And still counting the dead....

6 Apr 2010, Naxalites in a cold blooded ambush killed 76 and wounded 50 Indian soldiers who unknowingly were making their last trips travelling in a security convoy towards Dantewade district, a Naxal stronghold area of Chattisgarh. Later, on 17 May 2010, a landmine blast triggered yet again by Naxalites destroyed a bus killing up to 44 civilians including a few police officers. Subsequently in another recent unpleasant and gory incident on 28 May 2010, a train from Kolkata to Mumbai was sabotaged by Naxalites killing at least 150 innocent civilians.

The agony and emotion expressed in all the above incidents which happened in quick successions of less than a month typifies the brutal and ruthless hearts and minds of the so-called radicals who mercilessly killed innocent people.....people, who neither directly nor indirectly are responsible for the distressful and pitiful conditions of the Naxalites today. I can see eye to eye and can put myself in the place of the painful and deficient lives that this marginalised section of society faces today. But no one on this free land has the right to use their freedom of expression against the government...by threatening the security of the nation and making civilians scapegoats to their anguish.

Numbers create panic
Number of dead bodies being flashed on banner headlines in newspapers & internet sites and those sensationalised as breaking news on TV, creates panic amongst the people of this nation and also in government circles. Quickly, our officials in governing circles appear for interviews on national TV expressing their anguish over these incidents and also in a fit of pressure and intimidation articulate their plan of action and divulge internal official secrets of the Union and State governments. And all this done on national TV...eventually giving the assailants a full view summary of what is in store for them. Subsequently based on these facts assailants plan their course of actions to mitigate the risks scheduled to be implemented upon them by the government.

Cabinet decisions and plans are official secrets and in no way should be exposed for public scrutiny and comments. If our ministers in their capacities do not understand law and order of this nation, then something needs to be seriously done to get their focus right. Tendering resignations on “moral grounds” is a good way to gain sympathy and empathy from the people and also your seniors, but it also shows cowardice...which is something that is not expected from intellectuals who the world looks up to.

Exposing popular defects in the systems
"Naxalism” is a bad word in the Indian dictionary today and sections of noteworthy media proactively and very precisely are exposing this popular defect in the system which only worsens as the days goes by. This expose significantly acts as a media trail reinforcing authorities to make a serious note of this national issue and persuades them to take immediate action on the deficiencies in the system.

Conversely playing up news to gain good readership/ viewership..... commercialises the very purpose of news makers. Such sections of media start behaving like hyperactive watchdogs that can’t wait entering the bedrooms of people to fetch exciting gossip or even plagiarizing news for all they care. Some of them even spin out paid news masquerading as fair and accurate news in media.

Good civilian turned bad
For how long will we keep counting bodies of the dead in all these incidents which happen almost every fortnight? Are we waiting to wipe our valuable resources from this land which commands a population of over 1 billion people, who in some way or the other have contributed to society and have given this country a progressive GDP growth which does not show signs of turning back to the old ‘not-so-good’ times?

Whether it is Naxalite in India or the Taliban in Pakistan...the purpose and mission of these groups are alike. Talibans started off just like Naxals are today, and hence we cannot wait for these enemies of the soil to become as big as the Taliban in Pakistan. We need to devise an action plan to contain these people who once were the common man like you and me.

At the same time, we need to distribute the wealth to the marginalised population of India who never could have the benefit of education and health because of their backward upbringing. 70% of India’s population lives in villages and majority of them do not have the basic privileges of medicine, food and education. A partial socialist approach of addressing this section of society is needed. If we fail to cater to them, we’ll have many of the “good civilians” turning to become “bad civilians”...and then our netas will label them as “Naxalites”.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Do write to me with your reactions, opinions or critical comments at simplymearl@live.com or leave your inputs in the comments tab below.

Before I sign out, as I always say take very good care of yourself and God Bless!