Bhopal: When Champa Devi Shukla’s granddaughter was born with a raft of facial deformities in Bhopal, she was not left short of advice.
“Many people said you should kill her. But, I thought I’m not going to let her die. I’ve already lost three sons to this tragedy. So I’m not going to lose someone else,” said Ms Devi Shukla.
When a cloud of highly toxic methyl isocyanate gas blew across Bhopal on the night of December 2, 1984, around 3,500 people were killed in the immediate aftermath and up to 25,000 are estimated to have died in the long run.
The tragedy didn’t end there for locals living around the Union Carbide chemical plant at the centre of the disaster with many giving birth to children with abnormalities later.
While the exact numbers are impossible to pin down, the streets near the now-abandoned factory are full of families whose children, born post-1984, have either died prematurely or have major health problems.
But, the government has not confirmed a link, which would have major implications in terms of compensation, so far limited to people, who were alive at the time of the world’s deadliest industrial disaster.
Devi Shukla lost her husband and three sons on the night. One of her daughters, Vidya, was also left partially paralysed, although her condition improved after extensive physiotherapy.
The family was overjoyed when Vidya was pregnant. But her first child, a son called Su-shil, was stunted and is now less than four feet tall at the age of 18.
Second son Sanjay died after five months. And then Vidya gave birth to a daughter, Sapna. “She was born with a cleft lip and palate. She has had three lots of operations so far,” Devi Shukla said....