Ground Report | MP: Amid Lockdown, Bhopal Gas Survivors Struggle For Food,Treatment In State Capital
The ailing Gas victims have been denied medicine and treatment after the state government reserved the BMHRC for COVID-19 patients.
Sitting close to her door since last three days, 45-year-old Vimla, a resident of Blue Moon Colony of Bhopal is waiting for food.
It has been three days since she and her three other family members ate anything. Vimla and her husband are gas-hit survivors. They take medicines from Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC). She works as a domestic helper while her 49-year-old husband is a daily wages laborer.
Due to the lockdown, the duo is left with no work and are struggling to fulfill their basic needs.
They have run out of food, medicines and money they had in last two weeks of the lockdown.
"Pichle teen dino se pani aur parosiyo ke bache khuche khane pe zinda hai. Hospital bund hone se dawa pahle hi band ho gai aur agar aise hi kuch din aur bhuke rahe to hm log bhukh se mar jaye ge. (We are on water since last three days and leftover food of neighbours. Since the BMHRC close for the gas-hit patience, we have run out of medicine and if we didn't get proper food, we will die of hunger)," she said over the phone with a lump in her throat.
The condition of Munni Bee, 60, a resident of Annu Nagar is no different. She used to sell logs while her husband was a daily wages worker. Both, husband and wife are gas-hit victims. Munni Bee is suffering from respiratory diseases and she recently underwent an eye operation at the BMHRC.
With no work amid the lockdown, the couple does not have money to get basic essentials.
Just like them, around 20,000 - 25,000 people, most of who are 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy victims, have been spoiled off food in the state capital every day.
These families used to draw food packets from community kitchens. But, since the State Government has imposed strict curfew from April 5 after the cases of COVID-19 rose in Bhopal, as many as 70 community kitchens, which were feeding around 40,000 people every day in the various parts of the city shut down. Only medical shops and milk parlous are functioning.
Now, the beneficiaries from Kolar, Ashoka Garden, Jinsi, Airport road, Nariyalkheda, DIG bunglow, Putlighar, Nehru Nagar, Hamid Manzil, Karond, Rohit Nagar, JP Nagar and so on are reaching out to volunteers running these kitchens and asking them to deliver food, as people continue to starve.
They are asking for help from the volunteers, but, due to total ban on movement and food distribution, their voices remain unheard. They been been left on their fate. Some of the beneficiaries are stranded and daily wages laborers. Students, gas-hit victims, road side beggars, etc.
The Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) who is the solely responsible for delivering food packets with the help of Deendayal Rasoi has failed to meet the demand. Hence, they stop responding the calls, claimed locals.
"The government helpline numbers are unresponsive. Hence, we approached to the BMC Commissioner Vijay Dutta. He assured for the help, but, even after four days we received nothing expect few calls from his subordinates," 50-year-old Shahzadi, a gas-hit patient of Annu Nagar colony told The Logical Indian.
Shahzadi lost her entire family in the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
Since the first day of the lockdown, several families starved as the food packets were not delivered to them. The volunteers engaged in distribution of food around Bhopal say that they have been receiving calls from the families who do not have food and no one from the administration has come forward to help them. These volunteers were running kitchens in the various parts of the city and delivering food free of cost.
After the hue and cry over the news of starvation coming in from the various parts of the city and the BMC failed to meet the demand, the administration allowed few community kitchens to reopen.
Seema Kurup, who runs Jan Sampark Kitchens said, "Around 15,000-20,000 people sleeping hungry everyday. Our volunteers are flooded with the calls and we also can't meet the demand. But, we are doing as much as we can."
"I wonder, if the situation didn't improve in the next three-four days, their could be reports of death due to starvation in the state capital. The administration should act to feed them," she added.
Rishav Raj Singh, who runs an NGO with YouthQuake Foundation says he has received over 15 calls from different areas of Bhopal and the callers said they are not getting food from the administration. "In such a situation, it is likely that they may die."
There were calls from Motilal Nagar, Gandhi Nagar, Abbas Nagar, Godarmau and other areas where people are left with no food or ration. She says either the administration supply them with the ration or we should be allowed to resume. Shahwez Sikandar, another volunteer, says there were people who asked for help from the administration on helpline but could not get it.
"Volunteers are working in the areas and if we are stopped, residents around will suffer," he added.
When contacted, BMC Commissioner Vijay Dutta insisted that the NGOs and other volunteers, who have been receiving calls from the needy should pass on the details to the administration.
"If they have food, they can give it to us and we will ensure that food gets distributed there. We will lose the fight against Covid-19, if people roam on the roads to distribute the food," he said.
When asked why the BMC failed to deliver the food even after the four days of assurance to Shahzadi of Annu Nagar, he disconnected the call saying 'We are flooded the calls and we are trying to manage it."
Amid a total lockdown, the district administration efforts to deliver vegetables, grocery items and food packets to the needy at their door steps has entirely collapsed. "Their helpline numbers are unresponsive," Ausutosh Shukla, a senior journalist said.
Three Died In The Wake Of Treatment
The Gas survivors are not only dealing with inadequate food but also lack of medicines. The ailing Gas victims have been denied medicine and treatment after the state government reserved the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) for COVID-19 patients.
The 350-bedded multi-specialist hospital - BMHRC - was established in 1998 on the directives of the Supreme Court to provide free health care to the Gas tragedy survivors. On March 24, the Director of BMHRC issued an order that "all health care services" in the hospital will only be provided for COVID-19 patients and no one else.
Thus, the hospital administration not only shut the OPD department, but also forcefully discharged 86 under treatment patients (including dialysis patients) from the hospital between March 23 to March 24, 2020. As a result, three Gas survivors have died till date.