Television

20 years on BBC remembers Bhopal gas tragedy with documentary

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 MUMBAI: It was on 2 December 1984 that a gas tragedy struck Bhopal killing 8,000 people and injuring over 200,000 in one night.

Now BBC One in the UK will air a documentary on 1 December called One Night in Bhopal.

On that fateful night a routine maintenance operation by the American industrial giant Union Carbide turned into a disaster. The company stored huge quantities of toxic chemicals in the city under what proved to be an extremely inadequate safety regime. Ultimately, a botched incident lead to poisonuous gas escaping from the factory and drifting into the sleeping city, with catastrophic results.

The script for the documentary was written by Avie Luthra Canterbury Tales and it will be narrated by actress Indira Varma Bride and Prejudice.

The documentary tells the story of the lives of five people who lived and worked in Bhopal. Mehboob's husband was employed by Union Carbide as a maintenance worker. He survived that night, but suffered lung and chest infections for the next 15 years of his life before eventually dying of TB.

She also lost two sons to the tragedy and is today deeply in debt to money lenders. Kumkum was a doctor who resigned from the company after her concerns about safety were ignored.

Swaraj is a local police Superintendent who worked to restore calm on the night. Heavily exposed to the gas he is now a sick man, angry that justice as he sees it has not been done. Shahid was left orphaned by the tragedy and himself suffers breathlessness and dizziness. Today he helps victims of the gas seek medical help.

Suman was a young technician at the factory whose life was saved due to an oxygen mask. He could not prevent the tragedy but was there to witness it first hand, a burden he carries with him to this day.

The documentary goes on to note that today, the suffering in Bhopal shows little sign of improvement. The health effects were ruinous, the death toll continues to grow and thousands remain disabled by chronic symptoms. The compensation paid by Union Carbide is patchily distributed and no-one ever faced criminal charges for the neglect that lead to the disaster. The terrible after effects of that one night in Bhopal continue to this day.

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