resources | testimonials | BGIA
The following are testimonials from survivors collected by the Bhopal Group for Information and Action and published in their newsletters between 1985-1990.
If you would like to see the full newsletters, please see the Resources | Activism section.
Suresh, age 8
Shammu Khan, age 50
S.K. Dube, age 32
Ahmed Ali, age 45
Chander Singh, age 41
Sunil Kumar, age 15
Tulsiram, age 47
Basanti Bai, age 35
Ramesh, age 12
Narayani Bai, age 35
Suleman Khan, age 50
Ramkishan, age 40
Bano Bai, age 35
Mamta, age 12
Ram Bai, age 55
Khatoon Bee, age 25
Dinesh Kumar, age 5
Kallu Khan, age 40
Kishanlal, age 38
Suresh, age 8, Student Class 2, Shakti Nagar
"There is very little to eat. Very little to wear. Papa just doesn't get a job. He has no permanent job. Before the leak, he used to work on a boring machine. Now he cannot work on that machine.
Carbide must be punished. Take them to the policy station. Then hit them and then jail them - those Carbide fellows.
I can't play. I am weak. My hands and legs ache when I run. I get breathless soon. If I run I fall down immediately." - From “We will never Forget” BGIA, December, 1985
Shammu Khan, age 50, Rents out bicycles,
"People are still going around in circles for their 1500 rupees relief money. The assets of Carbide are still intact. Neither is the government taking it over, nor is it using Carbide's assets to help the poor victims. The people are not quiet, it's just that they are being lulled. Like when a child cries, one soothes it by diverting its attention saying a tiger is coming or a goat is coming. Nether does the tiger come nor does the goat. And the child eventually sleeps. The government is working in a similar fashion. We will have to cry out all over again." - From “We will never Forget” BGIA, December, 1985
S.K. Dube, 32, Former UCIL Plant Operator,
"At the time of the disaster I was on duty at the Sevin plant. I was also a member of the emergency squad so I stayed on to control the leak. That is how the gas hit me and I became unconscious. I was admitted to the hospital and my lungs were operated upon. Now I face great difficulty in walking. I suffer from breathlessness and the left side of my chest hurts terribly. When I try to read everything appears hazy. I am getting some treatment but it gives only temporary relief. The doctors say there is no treatment for MIC poisoning. The ICMR people call me for tests and they do blood gas analysis, pulmonary function tests urine tests etc. We are never given the reports of these tests and the doctors do not tell us anything properly.
I used to inhale toxic gasses even before the gas disaster. All kinds of gasses used to leak inside the Carbide plant and the managers never did anything about them. Workers used to be sick quite often - they would vomit, feel giddy an had headaches. And now the gas has made me completely disabled." - From “We will never Forget” BGIA, December, 1987
Ahmed Ali, 45, Unemployed,
"Before the gas leak I worked in the textile mill, in the spinning section. When the gas leaked I became very ill, and was admitted in the hospital. I got certificates made there & returned to the textile mill. I told my boss " here is my certificate, give me some lighter work to do". But he said " we are reducing the number of workers, so we cant' give you any lighter work. Hand in your resignation." The company people told me to give it in writing that my health was very bad and that I was resigning of my own accord. If I wrote that, they said, they would accept it, and if not, they wouldn't take me into work anyway. I was a permanent worker, and I had worked there for fifteen years. Now I'm not doing any work. From the day the gas leak till today I haven't done any work. I go here and there in search of work, but no work is available." - From “We will never Forget” BGIA, December, 1987
Chander Singh, 41,
"Since the gas leak I suffer from acute breathlessness, my limbs ache and I often get high fever. I have worked as a chef in many of the big hotels in India but now I cannot do this work. When I enter a kitchen where the fires are burning and the spices are being fried I start coughing violently and feel like vomiting. The other thing I could do was to drive, but for two years my hands were numb and I couldn’t' drive. Now I some how manage to drive an auto-rickshaw and support my family of eight people. Earlier I used to earn three to four thousand rupees a month, now I hardly earn five hundred. I cannot work for more than four to six hours and can only work for 15 to 20 days a month. I have given six applications to the Collector, six to Chief Minister, six to the Commissioner, Gas Relief. I also wrote letters to the Prime Minister and the President about the poor condition of my family. In my letter to the Speaker of the legislative assembly I asked permission to immolate my self along with my family. I was so desperate." - From “We will never Forget” BGIA, December, 1987
Sunil Kumar, 15, Student,
Jai Prakash Nagar
"My brothers Anil and Santosh died from the gas. My parents and three of my sisters - Pushpa, Kiran and Sanju also died in the disaster. Now I live with my sister Mamta and my brother who is three and a half years old. He remains sick very often. Union Carbide has done this to my family. I want to teach them a lesson some day. I am a member of the organisation : "Children Against Carbide"- other children who have lost their parents are also members. The Government has told us nothing about the settlement with Carbide. I read about it in the newspapers and went to the court to find out about it. The case against Carbide must be continued. Till now they have not established who were responsible for the gas leak. The CBI inquiry has also been stopped. The people must know who was responsible for the gas disaster- who killed their loved ones. And those who are found responsible must be hanged. What is the use of all the money if those who have killed so many go scot-free. Similar things will happen elsewhere and there also they will say "take some money and settle the matter." This will become the rule." - From “We will never Forget” BGIA, December, 1987
Tulsiram, 47, Former Textile Worker,
MIC Ward, Hamidia Hospital
"I am in the MIC ward for the last 13 days. Earlier I had been admitted here twice for three months each time. I was a permanent worker at the textile factory. After I was exposed to the gases from Carbide I was unable to work. I used to cough continuously. My eyes would burn and I would get breathless. During these bouts I could not even lift a glass of water. Everyday I would go to work and while coming back take medicines and injections from a private doctor. More than six times I was rushed to the hospital from the textile mill. The officers at the mill told me to tender my resignation since I could not work efficiently. So I had to resign. Before the gas I never used to be absent from duty you can check the records. There are fifty people in the MIC ward all are in a very bad condition. That fellow in bed number sixteen is going to die soon. I do not know how long I will live life has become so painfully uncertain after the gas." - From “We will never Forget” BGIA, December, 1987
Basanti Bai, 35, Housewife,
"Right after the gas leak my husband took me to the hospital. By the time I reached there I was completely unconscious. The doctor put a slip of paper on my forehead and I was thrown into the morgue among the dead bodies. My husband and brother were sitting outside. When they went in, the doctors stopped them and said "Your patient isn't here. She's dead". Then they came to the morgue and found me still breathing. So my husband and my brother lifted me up and brought me outside to the tent. I was given some injections during the night and after three to four hours I regained consciousness. Now I have breathing problems, feel giddy, my eyes burn sometimes and I get breathless carrying only two vessels of water. I get palpitations very often. When I was admitted no forms were filled for any patients. Papers. were given neither to me nor to my husband." - From “We will never Forget” BGIA, December, 1987
Ramesh, 12, Student and apprentice at a tailor's shop, Jai Prakash Nagar
"The day before the gas leaked was a Sunday. My friends and were relaxing in the evening and then we watched a movie on the television. I must have gone to sleep around 9 p.m. It was cold and I had covered myself with a rug. Sometime in the middle of the night I heard a lot of noise coming from outside. People were shouting "Get up" “Run, run " " gas has leaked". My elder brother Jawahar got up and said " Everyone is running away, we too must run". I opened my eyes and saw that the room was full of white smoke. The moment I removed the rug from my face my eyes started stinging as if someone was burning a lot of dried chilies and every breath was burning my insides. I was scared of opening my eyes. The gas was getting in through my mouth. Through my nose. We got ready to run. All six of us, my brothers ands sister came out together with my sister carrying my youngest brother Rajesh in her arms. My father refused to leave and my mother stayed with him. So we left them in the house and ran towards the cremation ground. After a while my sister who was carrying my little brother got separated. The gas was thick and we couldn't see where they had gone. The four of us left, held on to each other's hand and walked on. While running Mahesh and I fell into a ditch full of dirty water. As we reached the main road we could see a lot of people lying around. We did not know whether they were dead or unconscious. One fellow, Gupta, was sleeping with a rug over him. Mahesh crawled under the rug with him and that fellow made place for the rest of us. But after a while as we could not breathe it got very uncomfortable under the rug. So we got up and started walking towards the bus stand. Near the wine shop we came across some bathrooms which were closed. My brother kicked the door down and all of us got inside. I covered my younger brother Mahesh and Suresh with my coat and put them to sleep. My elder brother kept sitting outside looking out for our parents. I asked him to come in but he was worried about them and would not come in. He started vomiting outside. Some people in the neighborhood gave him water. We were not talking to each other just sitting and worrying about our parents. I did not know that the gas could kill people but while running away I had seen a little child crying beside his mother who was lying beside the road. So all kinds of dreadful thoughts crossed my mind. Early in the morning we set out for home. My eyes were swollen and my chest was aching. On our way back we saw a lot of dead cattle lying around and a lot of people too. My brother could not walk. So Mahesh and I held both his hands and pulled him along. Nearer home I saw my friend Santosh’s grandfather lying dead. Balmukund, our neighbour was dying and they rushed him to the hospital My uncles who also live in a basti in Bhopal had heard about the gas leak and came looking for us. They were worried about what they would find. But they found us all alive. As I was going with my uncle to buy jaggery, on the way to the shop I saw a lot of dead bodies of men, women and children lying in front of the Union Carbide factory gate. I was also trying to find our cow and found her in a street coughing. My dog lay dead. Two of my friends Santosh and Rajesh also had died. Then my uncle took all of us to their home which is fifteen kilometers away. We sat under a tree and all the people in the locality came over to look at us. Then people from amongst them arranged to have us taken to the hospital." - From “We will never Forget” BGIA, December, 1987
Mamta, 12, Housework, Jai Prakash Nagar
"Seven members of my family died in the gas disaster, my parents three sisters and two brothers. Over there on the wall is my mother’s photograph in which all ten of us are photographed together. Now there are just three of us in this house, I, my little brother, Kunkun and my elder brother. We did not go to the orphanage because over here we have friends. I do all the housework and look after Kunkun." - From “We will never forget” December 1987
Ram Bai, 55, Housework, Kainchi Chhola
"My husband died last year in the month of April. He was ill ever since the gas affected him. He became very weak and he was suffering from pain in the stomach. On his papers the doctors did not mention that he was gas-affected. We could not get the post-mortem done on his body since my only son was away when he died. When my son returned after three days the body started smelling. The government people refused to give us Rs.10,000 which is given to the next of kin of those who died due to the gas. They said it is not mentioned in his papers that he was gas-affected. I showed them the ICMR card but they said that won’t do." - From “We will never forget” December 1987
Khatoon Bee, 25, Maid-Servant, Rajgarh Colony
"My husband suffered from various illnesses after he was exposed to the gases from Carbide. He used to have severe pains in the stomach and would cough uncontrollably. He died eight months ago. His condition was very bad just before he died and the doctors did not want to admit him. I keep busy working in people’s houses." - From “We will never forget” December 1987
Dinesh Kumar, 5, Kainchi Chhola
"I was with my grandmother when the gas leaked. There they told me that my mother and two elder brothers had died. They told me they had died due to gas from Union Carbide. But I did not understand much them. When I came back I could not find my mother and brother anywhere. Now I know. They are all dead." - From “We will never forget” December 1987
Kallu Khan, 40, Hospital worker, Rajgarh Colony
"My eleven month old daughter Saira died on 27.08.1985.She was two months old at the time of the disaster and was left lying in the house. I applied for the Rs.10,000 monetary relief but they said “your case is rejected ”.I could not get the post-mortem done on her body as I was away in Bombay taking treatment at the KEM hospital. I had submitted all other necessary papers but still they won’t give me the money. I met all the ministers but nothing came out of all that." - From “We will never forget” December 1987
Kishanlal, 38, Rents out cycles, Kainchi Chhola
"I was away from Bhopal when the gas disaster occurred. I rushed back on hearing the news and found my wife Kamal and my two sons Gama and Pappu dead. Now I live with my only surviving son. The house feels empty so I give music lessons to the neighbouring kids. I went to the collector’s office several times but could not get the Rs.1,500 monetary relief they are supposed to give." - From “We will never forget” December 1987
Narayani Bai, 35,
Mahamayee ka Baug
"This is the sixth time I have been admitted to the MIC Ward. I have been here since the last month of 1985. When I feel a little better the doctors send me home but I can't stay there for long. My breathlessness become acute and my husband has to bring me back to the hospital. The doctors say that the gases have damaged my lung badly. They say nothing can be done about my disease. Before the gas I had never seen the insides of a hospital. And now I have spent most of the last five years on this hospital bed. I used to work as an assistant at a day care centre and now I can not do any work. My husband Kaluram also can not go to his job. He used to carry loads. My son works as a tailor, he is the only one earning in the family." - From “Voices from Bhopal” BGIA, December 3, 1990
Suleman Khan, 50,
"I have been working as a booking agent in the Madhya Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation for the last 24 years. I was on duty right after the disaster and during Operation Faith when the Corporation's buses were used to carry people who were running away from Bhopal. I started having serious health problems about a month after the gas leak. In May '86 I was transferred to Piparia, 150 kilometers away from Bhopal. There were no facilities for medical treatment of gas victims in the Piparia hospital. So I had to absent myself from my duty and come to Bhopal. They stopped my salary. I wrote many applications to get myself transferred back to Bhopal. More than 2 years later, they transferred me back but I am still not getting my salary.
I was admitted in the MIC ward in June' 87 and remained there for more than three years. I was so breathless they had to put me on oxygen. The doctor in charge of the MIC word has written on my papers that my lungs are badly damaged. I have to take 8 to 12 tablets in a day to be able to talk, move about or just to breathe. I have written 17 letters to the officials of the Corporation, 7 letters to the Chief Minister and 4 letters to the Prime Minister. I have requested them to pay me my salary, give me some monetary relief and do something for my medical treatment. These medicines don't seem to be working.
In August' 87 I was called for medical examination by the Directorate of Claims. I was in the MIC ward at that time. Then after 2 years when I was still in the hospital they sent me a notice which said that I have been put in category 'B' My wife was also admitted in the MIC ward. She too has been told by the Claims Directorate that she has suffered only temporary injury. Like they said for me. I wrote a letter saying that there was something terribly wrong in putting me in Category 'B'. The doctor in charge of the MIC ward put in his recommendation in that letter. It has been almost a year since and they haven't replied yet." - From “Voices from Bhopal” BGIA, December 3, 1990
Phuta Makbara, Chhola Road
"I used to work at the Formulation plant in Union Carbide's factory. I had been working there every since the sixth month of the year 1973. When I joined, I used to work as a casual worker. For six years, I worked as a casual worker. They made me a permanent worker in the third month of 1980. I was working in the Formulation plant on the night the gas leaked. The tank of MIC which leaked was only 400 feet from the Formulation plant. When the gas started leaking, some people cried out "Run, Run" and we left our work and ran towards the west.
Later, the factory was closed down. There was nothing for me to do. The government offered me jobs but they were all away from Bhopal. I was given jobs in Mhow, Rajgarh and Indore, none in Bhopal. My wife had taken in a lot of gas and she was pregnant at that time. So I could not stay away from Bhopal. Now I work as a daily wage labourer. I get jobs 15 to 20 days in a month and make about 20 to 25 rupees in a day. There are quite a few Carbide workers who could no find employment after the factory was closed down. I personally know about one hundred of such workers. After the factory was closed, I was given six months salary as compensation, nothing else.
I was just a worker there, how could I know what poisons were stored in there? I was never told that there were such dangerous chemicals inside the factory. If I knew, I would not have worked in that factory. The plant used to smell awfully at times but we were just workers, how could we know? When we worked there, our eyes used to hurt and our skin itched but whoever knew that such a disaster could happen?" - From “Voices from Bhopal” BGIA, December 3, 1990
Bano Bai, 35,
"The night the gas leaked, I was sewing clothes sitting next to the door. It was around midnight. The children's father had just returned from a poetry concert. Became in and asked me, "what are you burning that makes me choke?" And then it became quite unbearable. The children sleeping inside began to cough. I spread a mat outside and made the children sit on it. Outside we started coughing even more violently and became breathless. Then our landlord and my husband went out to see what was happening. They found out that some gas had leaked. Outside there were people shouting, "Run, run, run for your lives."
We left our door open and began to run. We reached the Bharat Talkies crossing where my husband jumped into a truck full of people going to Raisen and I jumped into one going towards. Obaidullahganj. It was early morning when we reached Obaidullahganj. The calls for the morning prayers were on. As we got down, there were people asking us to get medicines put on our eyes and to get injections. Some people came and said they made tea for us and we could have tea and need not pay any money.
Meanwhile, some doctors came there. They said the people who are seriously ill had to be taken to the hospital. Two doctors came to me and said that I had to be taken to the hospital. I told my children to come with me to the hospital and bade them to stay at the hospital gate till I came out of the hospital. I was kept inside for a long time and the children were getting worried. Then Bhairon Singh, a Hindu who used to work with my husband, spotted the children. He too had run away with his family and had come to the hospital for treatment. The children told him that I was in the hospital since morning and described to him the kind of clothes I was wearing.
Bhairon Singh went in to the hospital and found me among the piles of the dead. He then put me on a bench and ran around to get me oxygen. The doctors would put the oxygen mask on me for two minutes and then pass it on to someone else who was in as much agony as I was. The oxygen made me feel a little better. The children were crying for the their father so Bhairon told them that he was admitted to a hospital in Raisen. When I was being brought back to Bhopal on a truck, we heard people saying that the gas tank has burst again. So we came back and went beyond Obaidullahganj to Budhni, where I was in the hospital for three days.
I did not have even a five paisa coin on me. Bhairon Singh spent his money on our food. He even hired a taxi to take me back to Bhopal to my brother's place. My husband also had come back by then. He was in a terrible condition. His body would get stiff and he had difficulty in breathing. At times, we would give up hopes of his survival. My brother took him to a hospital. I said that I would stay at the hospital to look after my husband. I still had a bandage over my eyes. When the doctors at the hospital saw me, they said "why don't you get admitted yourself, you are in such a bad state." I told them that I was all right. I was so absorbed with the sufferings of my children and my husband that I wasn't aware of my own condition. But the doctors got me admitted and since there were no empty beds, I shared the same bed with my husband in the hospital. We were in that hospital for one and a half months.
After coming back from the hospital, my husband was in such a state that he would rarely stay at home for more than two days. He used to be in the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital most of the time. Apart from all the medicines that he used to take at the hospital, he got medicines liked Deriphylline and Decadron from the store. He remained in that condition after the gas disaster. I used to take him to the hospital and when I went for the Sangathan meetings, the children took him to the hospital. He was later admitted to the MIC ward and he never came back from there. He died in the MIC ward.
My husband used to carry sacks of grain at the warehouse. He used to load and unload railway wagons. After the gas, he could not do any work. Sometimes, his friends used to take him with them and he used to just sit there. His friends gave him 5-10 rupees and we survived on that.
We were in a helpless situation. I had no job and the children were too young to work. We survived on help from our neighbors and other people in the community. My husband had severe breathing problems and he used to get into bouts of coughing. When he became weak, he had fever all the time. He was always treated for gas related problems. He was never treated for tuberculosis. And yet, in his post-mortem report, they mentioned that he died due to tuberculosis. He was medically examined for compensation but they never told us in which category he was put. And now they tell me that his death was not due to gas exposure, that I can not get the relief of Rs.10,000 which is given to the relatives of the dead.
I have pain in my chest and I go breathless when I walk. The doctors told me that I need to be operated on for ulcers in my stomach. They told me it would cost Rs.10,000. I do not have so much money. All the jeweler that I had has been sold. I have not paid the landlord for the last six years and he harasses me. How can I go for the operation? Also, I am afraid that if I die during the operation, there would be no one to look after my children.
I believe that even if we have to starve, we must get the guilty officials of Union Carbide punished. They have killed someone's brother, someone's husband, someone's mother, someone's sister - how many tears can Union carbide wipe? We will get Union Carbide punished. Till my last breath, I will not leave them." - From “Voices from Bhopal” BGIA, December 3, 1990