Bhopal: Days after the Union Carbide disaster, Bimla Devi, fled Bhopal with her husband. She had come to the city as a new bride. She couldn't return to Bhopal when the surveys were being done simply because she didn't know. Her husband was ailing as well and couldn't travel. She returned after eight long years but she couldn't establish that she was a gas victim.
NDTV: You haven't got compensation?
Bimla Devi: No, they asked me to get proof. Where will I get that? I don't have any papers. So, I have got nothing so far.
She has no sight and her husband is dead, so, is her son who was born soon after the tragedy. He used to have fits and severe respiratory problems. Today, she survives on 150 rupees that she receives as widow pension.
A few months after the gas leak took place, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, conducted a survey of affected families. Unfortunately, the severity of the disaster led to hundreds of families leaving the city in haste. Many stayed with relatives and didn't return because many were too sick to travel. Besides, there were repeated rumours of fresh leaks which kept them away.
The management of the aftermath of the Union Carbide disaster left many questions unanswered. The scale of the tragedy was minimised because the real data was missing. Over the years, the figures kept changing from around 3000, now it is believed 15,000 people died and lakhs were left sick for life.
However, without proper documentation, none of them will ever get the financial compensation they deserve. But now that the case is being reopened, the government must make the effort to identify those who were really affected by the gas leak and make sure that they are not left out once again.