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30 Years later Is the Gas Still Killing Bhopal's Children?

30 Years later Is the Gas Still Killing Bhopal
Highlights

Taha Quereshi, now two years old, was born 28 years after one of the world\'s worst industrial disasters - the Bhopal gas tragedy. The child has cancer of the blood and his parents say they suspect it is a heartbreaking legacy of the disaster.

Bhopal: Taha Quereshi, now two years old, was born 28 years after one of the world's worst industrial disasters - the Bhopal gas tragedy. The child has cancer of the blood and his parents say they suspect it is a heartbreaking legacy of the disaster.

Both of Taha's parents, Samhsad and Memuna Quereshi, are gas victims and say they believe their child suffers from the fatal disease because of their exposure to the poisonous methyl isocynate gas that leaked from the Union Carbide factory exactly 30 years ago today, killing over 1700 people in hours and affecting over five lakh people in Bhopal. (In Pics: Bhopal Gas Tragedy - Then And Now)
They say two of Taha's cousins have been born with abnormalities too. "Me and my husband both are gas victims, there is a chance that because of it he may have been affected. Doctors say it will cost around 50 lakhs to cure him. We have spent around 7 lakhs. We arranged the money by mortgaging my jewelry and selling our shop. The government does not even acknowledge Taha as a gas victim," said Memuna Qureshi.
Activists claim that thousands of children and grandchildren of gas tragedy survivors have been born with congenital defects, cerebral palsy and even cancer. They allege that the government is ignoring their medical condition; they do not qualify as gas tragedy victims since they were not directly exposed and so are not entitled to free medical assistance.
On the night between December 2 and 3 in 1984, as Bhopal slept, 40 tonnes of the deadly methyl isocynate gas leaked from the Union Carbide factory silently spreading death and disease.
Bharti Agrawal, who was about two-and-a-half years old then, lived a few kilometers away from the Union Carbide factory. She was exposed to the gas, but grew up with no apparent medical condition.
But the tragedy came back to haunt her, said Bharti, when her second daughter was born with no vision and a stunted brain. "When my daughter was born the doctor asked me where I was when the gas tragedy took place. I told him I was in Bhopal...He said there could be a connection between the gas tragedy and the condition of my child as I was exposed to the gas," said Bharti
Dr Mrityunjai Mali, who has been working with gas victims for years, says, "One out of 20 children that I treat daily are suffering from congenital defects, skin problems or mental illness. Generations of people have been affected and so far the government has no provision for medical help or compensation to second and third generation gas victims," he said.
But the government says no official study or research has established that the ill effects of the gas have been passed down the generations.
"When we talk of genetic linkage or transmission of effect of gas exposure to the 1st or the 2nd or the 3rd generation, we lack evidence right now. Yes definitely there is a need for such study and there is a study underway, but its findings will only be known by 2016," said Dr Manoj Pandey, Director Bhopal Memorial and Research Centre.
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