Survivor story – Bhopal Gas tragedy
A survivor story in spite of being expected to have a happy ending may sometimes leave a lingering sadness. Our story today is one such. Dr Jayshree. MS, a GDMO in DHS, Delhi recounts hers and her family’s tale of horror that fateful night- on the intervening night of 2nd 3rd December. 1984, Bhopal. The night of that tragedy – the night of the disaster of Bhopal Gas tragedy.
Dr Jayshree who was pursuing her post graduate studies away from home received news the next day that there here had been a major gas leak in the Union Carbide Factory. Back then there were no cell phones for instant contact. The telephone lines were not working. (Probably jammed) Though she was worried to death and wanted to be with her family at the earliest, there was nothing she could do as her Faculty too had advised her against visiting home until it was safe as there were no proper reports of the situation back in Bhopal. After three restless days she finally reached Bhopal. It resembled a ghost town. The city smelled of death and despair. The railway station was almost deserted. Coolies had many sad tales to tell- Of train load of people dying in their sleep: Of people, who were sleeping bliss fully unaware of the situation when it passed through and halted. There was one heroic story of a station master who on realizing the gravity of the situation valiantly attempted to signal all trains not to stop. He kept on at his post trying to contact stations to stop entering the city instead of fleeing and taking cover and in the process he lost his life. There were also unconfirmed stories of Para medics who were affected by the toxic gas while administering treatment as it was reported that they simply were at loss at the nature of treatment to be given and the antidote as there were no information about the gas that had leaked. Amidst these stories of horror she reached home but thankfully her family members were safe.
The Cold wintry night had saved her family and so were the other residents of the colony. They had slept with the windows tightly shut and were safely tucked in bed underneath thick blankets, when the toxic gas spread over the unsuspecting city. When the gas leaked it was reported that the alarms were not sounded and the workers fled the site immediately without activating the (almost non existent) emergency management systems… By the time the authorities were informed precious moments were wasted. It was a small consolation that the gas was denser and by early morning it had disappeared considerably.
The leak was controlled and the gas had settled down literally and thankfully dispersed or else the casualties would have been higher. The next morning there was death everywhere near the factory. Add to it some panic spreading rumors which sent the city in total chaos. Information network was not functioning properly. The city was simply not prepared for something of this magnitude even after having some close shaves earlier. After one week the city somewhat turned into normal but long term effects started showing up. There was food scarcity for one; secondly the symptoms of long term toxic effects of the gas were showing in the affected people. Relief was slow to come. Dr Jayshree‘s family were lucky in that no body suffered any damage. They had come out of it unscathed and safe and they were thankful to the almighty for it, but happy? … Can’t say… can’t be! At least not now, anymore!
- Bhopal gas tragedy occurred on the night of December 3 or more precisely on the intervening night of 2nd and 3rd December at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal.
- Around midnight there was there was a leak of methyl isocyanate(MIC) gas and other toxins from the plant, resulting in the exposure of over 500,000 people.
- Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. Other government agencies estimate 15,000 deaths. Others estimate that 8,000 died within the first weeks and that another 8,000 have since died from gas-related diseases.
- Another 100,000 to 200,000 people are estimated to have permanent injuries.
- Warren Anderson, the then Chairman of Union Carbide Corporation of USA, was allowed to escape India and is still an absconder and did not not subject himself to trial.
- Greenpeace asserts that as the Union Carbide CEO, Anderson knew about a 1982 safety audit of the Bhopal plant, which identified 30 major hazards and that they were not fixed in Bhopal but were fixed at the company’s identical plant in the US.
- 26 years after the world’s worst industrial disaster that had left over many thousands of people dead, a local court had convicted all the seven persons, including former Union Carbide Chairman Keshub Mahindra, in the case and awarded them a maximum of two years imprisonment while the erstwhile CEO lives a free man in US.
Value of human life:
- After the accident, no one under the age of 18 was registered. The number of children exposed to the gases was at least 200,000.
- Immediate relief was decided two days after the tragedy.
- Relief measures commenced in 1985 when food was distributed for a short period and ration cards were distributed.
- Widow pension of the rate of Rs 200/per month (later Rs 750) was provided.
- One-time ex-gratia payment of Rs 1,500 to families with monthly income Rs 500 or less was decided.
- Each claimant was to be categorised by a doctor. In court, the claimants were expected to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that death or injury in each case was attributable to exposure. In 1992, 44 percent of the claimants still had to be medically examined.
- From 1990 interim relief of Rs 200 was paid to everyone in the family who was born before the disaster.
- The final compensation (including interim relief) for personal injury was for the majority Rs 25,000 (US$ 830). For death claim, the average sum paid out was Rs 62,000.
- Effects of interim relief were more children sent to school, more money spent on treatment, more money spent on food, improvement of housing conditions.
- The management of registration and distribution of relief showed many shortcomings.
- In 2007, 1,029,517 cases were registered and decided. Number of awarded cases were 574,304 and number of rejected cases 455,213. Total compensation awarded was Rs.1,546.47 crores.
- Because of the smallness of the sums paid and the denial of interest to the claimants, a sum as large as Rs 10 billion is expected to be left over after all claims have been settled.
Mr. Kailash Chandra was a patient of Pharyngeal carcinoma with widespread metastasis.
His last conversation with his daughter on 28.4.05
“You are leaving?”
“Yes daddy. I have to join office”
“… Am I dying?” His eyes beseeched her to be honest with him.
She tried to control the tears that were threatening to spill over and bravely continued.
“Well! They have already made a channel for food. That should take care of your nutrition and after you regain some of your strength then we can think of surgery… and also we have attempted alternate medicine…..Rest , who can say anything about tomorrow…but we will fight it out till the last. Won’t we?”
He nodded. “I was just thinking of the pain…”
“No no! I won’t let you suffer, I promise. I will put you to sleep myself if the need arises… trust me…But you have to be brave. You will be. Won’t you?”
He nodded a faint smile on his lips. (Probably to make her happy). Then turning towards his wife he said casually. “Hope you have prepared chicken for lunch. Biti (his daughter) likes it.”
Mr. Kailash Chandra passed away on 18/05/05… He did not suffer much.
Today’s survivor story is dedicated to all those who gave a brave fight but could not make it as a survivor… but for me, they were survivors in their own right for facing their crisis head on and putting a brave fight till the end.
- Article written by Mani Padma. She is a Doctor by profession, working in Delhi. She is the chief-co brewer of GingerChai and has to her credit some of the interesting categories you see in GingerChai. Want to read more of her articles ? Click HERE.
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You punch me and I will punch you back harder
Survivor… hmmm! The word sounds familiar… but not quite familiar.
Am I a survivor? I don’t know yet. I don’t feel I have won… but I know I am fighting. There is so much I have had to fight with over the past one year. Here’s my story.
I had kidney stones in 2008, and all was pretty cool at that point. It wasn’t a big deal at all. The bigger concern was the 20 Kgs I had gained (82 – 102) over the past two years because of lack of activity and abundance of beer
Now! In March’09, exactly a year ago, I decided to get rid of all this excess weight and watched a couple of Rocky Balboa to get me pumped. It was on 6th of March that I began exercising—twice a day—and with limited diet. I worked so hard that I lost 7 Kgs in the month of March. However, a new problem substantiated. I started getting fever at weird intervals… and every day. The usual fever courses did not prove to be of help. I could not go in for a full fledged checkup because I had joined a new organization on 16th March. I continued to report to work even through the illness and it kept worsening. It was on 1st April that I thought enough was enough. I took leaves and went for ultrasound and other checks.
During the ultrasound, it was discovered that I had pleural effusion (water in pleura, the covering of lungs). I googled the possible causes and the probables were TB, Lung Cancer, Lung Pneumonia etc. Well! It was not a nice read. Anyways, a couple of days and tests later, the verdict came out to be TB.
TB was a big deal disease in earlier times but it has become perfectly curable now. All you need to do is to take a 9 months course of a combination of some deadly medicines. I was cool with that. ‘Curable’ was a very cool word, I thought. Now… this is where the real problem surfaced. Where? When? Well, when I thought ‘what if’. What if I had lung cancer?
I had the Internet to my disposal… and I searched so much about cancer… that it was probably the biggest mistake of my life. I read much more than I should have. It was those days that I realized how easy it was for this precious life to end. Death scared the hell out of me. I am sorry but I have not recovered from that frame of mind ever since. I have completely forgotten to enjoy life. All I have been thinking is – ‘when all things have to come to an end, why bother taking stuff so seriously’. I have lost respect for job, money, people… and even deliverables… which is the reason I got chucked out of the new job just two months after joining. I had lost it completely.
My TB course was discontinued on my birthday, 12th November. It wasn’t a big relief because I had stopped caring for things. Cancer scared/scares me big time. After the TB course was discontinued, I developed weird pimples on skin… which of course I thought as skin cancer…. but it turned out to be side effects of the medicines I had consumed. The skin problem is now taken care of. But then there is a problem in my throat… which is not healing since three months… I have paid so many visits to doctors… but all is definitely not well.
Professionally… I began freelancing in September last year… and somehow managed it… but ended up losing my clients due to the instability in mind and the resultant attitude. Remember??? I had stopped caring. Then, this year, I managed to get into a permanent job… but lost it due to similar issues (they promised me a permanent office but later asked me to work from home for a couple of months more… which I didn’t want to).
The only good thing that happened to me last year was my blog. I decided to vent out my frustration in the form of blog posts… and it helped big time! Here’s a tip – look around for vents; they help you.
Coming back to the bad things… 1st March’2010—no job, no money, health distorted, mind distorted, weight 108 kgs, personal relationships suffering… thoughts of ‘death’ all the time… and all the time to think of death!
Then again, that’s not the end of the story. I thought, ‘what if’. What if I fight once again… after all, it’s the month of March.
I hired a Yoga sir… started gymming… and took a decision! I will dedicate two whole months of my life to health… SO… here it is… March and April I am busy… friends. Although the throat problem hasn’t healed… but I can fight!
I can clearly remember all the things that motivated me once upon a time. ‘You punch me and I will punch you back harder’, said Rocky. I have decided to punch life. The weight is coming down… 104 at the moment. I think of death sometimes… but I think of life the remaining times.
- Thanks to Kshitij Khurana for sharing his survivor story with us. He is a blogger and writes at Dusht-ka-Drishtikone and his funny photo blog, Mitti-ka-Sher. Mani Padma needs a special mention here for talking to Kshitij and getting this story for us. For more of Mani Padma’s articles, click HERE
If any one of you have inspiring stories of yourself which can inspire and help many, kindly share with us in survivors series. Send the stories to: sip(at)gingerchai(dot)com or Contact Us
When Swine Flu played havoc in their life…
The one scary aspect of being part of this universe is that one never knows when one’s life may turn topsy-turvy with a single incident or how a happy family may turn into a mere number in the statistical records of some official document or just become the headline of a newspaper daily. At such adverse times when fate takes the ultimate test of endurance, patience and courage, it is only determination and never ending hope that can bring out a person from such situations unscathed.
This survivor story is about Rachana Lal, A government servant, resident of South Delhi, a mother of two and her ordeal with swine flu and her extreme patience and faith which helped her and her family survive those moments.
For Rachana Lal, 9/8/09 was like any other routine day but she noticed that when she came back from office in the evening her 5 year old son Hardik was not his usual self. Other than slight irritability there were of course no other warning signs.
On 10/08/09, early morning however he was running a slight temperature. The temperature subsided with paracetamol but he kept tossing and turning throughout the day and had developed cough and cold.
On 11/08/09 as he was still having fever she took her son to the nearby Government dispensary where they treated him as common cold.
At 5′o clock the same day his fever shot up to 104 degree and he was also vomiting. Around the same time they saw a news flash of detection of a swine flu case in the same school that Hardik studied and belonging to his own class.
She wasted no time and took her son to Safdarjung hospital for treatment but made a blunder there- She forgot to give the contact history which later proved to be a major error. He was again given a course of medicines… a course of medicines for flu.
On 12/08/09 there was neither improvement nor any deterioration. They chose to wait and watch.
On 13/08/09 Hardik’s appetite decreased considerably. His fever never touched baseline in spite of repeated medications.
On 14/08/09 they (Rachana and her husband) again took him to Safdarjung hospital in the morning as he had completely stopped taking solids by then. This time she mentioned the contact history after which the sample for H1N1 virus testing was taken but they were again asked to go back and come after 4 days. Awareness of swine flu was spreading fast and so Rachana inquired if Hardik could at least be given Tami flu on suspicion., but he was neither admitted nor given Tami flu and was sent back home with advise to return after 4 days.
On the same day at 5.45 pm hardik’s condition worsened. He was coughing and vomiting and had developed breathing difficulty. Moreover he was running a temperature of around 103- 104 degrees F they again took him to Safdarjung Hospital casualty or emergency department, but there they were sent to the H1N1 department for management. But from there they were again sent back to emergency as there were no beds available.
At 6.30 pm Hardik was given nebulizer which gave him slight relief and was advised chest X ray. Even after being made to run about from pillar to post her never for once did lose her cool. Her husband had despaired at the state of things and had broken down once but she remained calm and remained a pillar of strength for both her husband and little hardik.
8 pm: Though they did not admit Hardik, Rachana still held hope and stayed back there in the waiting lounge for fear of further deterioration if she brought him back home .They kept on trying for admission till 9 pm but with no avail. Time was running out so they decided to move on in desperation to Holy Family Hospital.
10 pm: They reached Holy Family hospital but even they refused to admit Hardik as he was a suspected Swine flu case. They were beginning to panic but Rachana did not waver for once nor lose hope. They called up Batra Hospital helpline and again hit a negative response. But thankfully, someone in Holy family hospital suggested them to take him to RML hospital without wasting anymore time.
11.45 pm: They reached RML hospital and from then on things started moving for the better. He was examined promptly and administered Tami flu and admitted him for observation and treatment.
They were explained about isolation and precautions to prevent spread and her little daughter of two was given precautionary Tami flu. Swabs were taken for H1N1 testing from her daughter too.
All the formalities were completed by 1 am.
Hardik started responding to treatment and started taking orally little bit the next day and after 5 days the symptoms began to disappear.
Finally the ordeal was over for Rachana and her family. Never during the period did she lose her hope nor became agitated. She kept her mind composed to think lucidly ahead as she felt that if she weakened at that moment then there would be no one to take charge and how true she was!
- A real survivor story as told to Mani padma
If any one of you have inspiring stories of yourself which can inspire and help many, kindly share with us in survivors series. Send the stories to: sip (at) gingerchai (dot) com
As far as I knew cancer meant death but…
My name is Komal (name changed). I am an NO (nursing orderly) working in a government dispensary under Delhi Govt. I stay in the Government quarters and have been on my job since 14 years. My husband works as a driver on a contract basis and I have three children.
Other than occasional irritation due to migraine and some minor gynecological problem I was physically fit. So when they held a gynecological health camp here in our Dispensary I decided to get myself checked just out of curiosity , which showed a high grade infection in a pap smear. I was advised by my friends to get a recheck in Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, the referral hospital of our dispensary and again it showed a high grade infection. But as it was not resolving even after treatment, I again went for a pap smear. This time I was diagnosed with early cancer. I was shocked. Never in my life had I expected that I will be diagnosed with cancer – carcinoma in situ of cervix (mouth of the uterus or womb). I was shocked and very frightened . The first thoughts were of my children… What was going to be of them. As far as I knew cancer meant only death… but The doctors and other staff of my dispensary were very supporting. They counseled me and supported me in every manner possible and advised me to report in a specialized hospital. After a little bit of thought I chose St Stephen’s hospital, as I heard it to be a good one and also because it was in the panel of Delhi Govt Health Scheme treating hospitals. It was January 2003 when I was diagnosed. I did not waste time and immediately consulted St Stephens Hospital. They did not waste time either and started investigations. Thankfully. It was at an early stage and had not spread. . They assured me that a cone biopsy will help me. So on April 2003, I underwent the procedure. I had decided early on that I was not going to waste time on deliberation as from my little knowledge I knew that cancer can be cured if treated early and be fatal if it is delayed. It was not a major surgery as such, but as there were risk of complications, I remained admitted in hospital for 9 days. The surgery went without any complications. The recovery was fast. I had to take a total of twenty days leave only. I was advised regular check up every three months for the first year and then six monthly from then onwards… but my problems did not end there, I conceived two years later and as my family was complete, I wanted to terminate the pregnancy, but that was risky as per the doctors and so was continuing the pregnancy. The weeks that followed were one of my most difficult. I was in a dilemma on what to do. If I went for a termination then there was a chance that I might bleed profusely but if I continued the pregnancy then there was this complication that it may end prematurely causing more problems. I finally attended Safdarjung hospital where the pregnancy was terminated uneventfully… Now I am all hale and hearty by the grace of God. I still go for periodic checkups… and try not to neglect small physical complain because it was timely detection and early intervention which helped me.
- A real survivor story as told to Mani padma
Compilers note: I hope the above narration was of help to you all readers. I would like to provide some additional information for your aid on the above issue. First of all the cancer cervix is the biggest killer cancer among females in India. But if detected early it can be cured. What Komal was suffering from was CIN of the cervix. A precancerous condition but still which could have developed into cancer if remained undetected. I am inserting you a link which sheds light on the above topic in a very easy non medical language http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life/health-fitness/health/All-about-Indias-commonest-cancer-Cervical-Cancer/articleshow/3399745.cms
Please go through the website of the Indian Cancer Society – which provides a complete aid about treatment centers , support, counseling and necessary references regarding cancer treatment and rehabilitation… They also have a scheme called cancer risk insurance which I think is a very novel one in today’s time. http://www.indiancancersociety.org/
If any one of you have inspiring stories of yourself which can inspire and help many, kindly share with us in survivors series.
A Consumer fights back
Life is a battle ground where we have to fight our own personal battles. Some for ourselves , some for our dear ones and some maybe for something which we believe with a passion. It may be for our ideals, our goals, our own selfish ends whatever it be we are always in war constantly. Some right and some maybe- wrong. We are the common man and most of such issues may seem trivial, but to the individual it must have been a moment of reckoning, a moment of introspection, a difficult trying time. But each leaving a great impact in our life in its wake. I am starting these series with all support from my editor and good friend Rajan hoping that such stories of small battles but big impact, may help you somewhere in your own journey and in your own fight for a just cause. Though I am starting these series with an account of my own legal battle in consumer court, I call upon you to continue the thread of these series with your own personal accounts, where we can share important facts and information along with offering our support for each other.
So on to my story. Not earth shattering but here I am dealing with a common problem that we face – What do we do when the costly home appliance breaks down after 5 months and the company does nothing to repair it. Yes! With much hope and plenty of smiles we had purchased a washing machine on 7/10/05 which had a warranty of 2 years but we had still taken up the annual maintenance contract for the next 2 years. Everything was fine until on 12/06/06, then the machine stopped functioning. We had given a call to the helpline but no technician visited even after 48 hrs. After repeated calling, a technician came. He checked it and promised to come with the front door lock of the machine the next day. He failed to return. My gut feeling told me that this was not going the right way. I had three choices. Go on cribbing at their helpline and continue this mouse game with no results or forget everything and purchase another machine. The third option was .YES THEY WERE WRONG AND I AM GOING TO FIGHT THIS OUT if needed the right way. So i started keeping proper records of date and time of the reminders. Then followed it up with e-mails to have a written record. In the record I mentioned everything lucidly with also the option we had to undertake if their callous attitude continued and giving them ample time to react. Though initially they made half hearted attempts to pacify us but they stopped taking us seriously after two three exchanges and altogether stopped responding.( well this is something that happens quite often. When we say that or patience is running out, they test your patience further)
Internet is a great boon. At first we reported at the CORE (Consumer Online Resource & Empowerment Center). The government consumer forum. Though they try to intervene but nothing much was done nor much happened. (in other words don’t pin all your hopes on it). Then I came across this organization-ICRPC (International Consumer Rights Protection Council), a Mumbai based organization which offered legal advice and help at a minimal price. Their website is www.icrpc.org and I found them very professional , sincere and very much true to their word. They guided me on how to proceed in such a matter. And also prepared my legal documents for submission in the court. Even after sending a legal notice to the whirlpool they did not respond. So we had no other option but to fight our case at the state consumer court. Would you believe it? We won the case without hiring a lawyer. All throughout ICRPC guided us and prepared all our papers and all these through the medium of the internet. No phone calls , no personal meeting but still so effective.Though we were a bit apprehensive of the number of appearances we may have to make and the period of trial( remember Sunny Deol’s tarikh pe Tarikh from Damini) The case lasted for two year and we had made about 10 to 12 appearances I guess. Finally everything was settled after we received our refund, the experience behind us, our faith in the Judiciary upheld.
Life was finally one battle less.
Editor’s note: If you have won a battle in life share it with us. It can be of any nature. A battle against corruption, a battle against a system, a battle within, a battle against a disease, a battle against a shortcoming. Share it with us, even a small battle won can inspire others. There is a story within each of us to be told.