Bhopal gas tragedy victims lose a true friend

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N D Sharma
N D Sharma
is a senior journalist, and Patron of eNewsroom India.

Bhopal: For over 30 years, Abdul Jabbar struggled to get medical and economic rehabilitation for the victims of Bhopal Gas Disaster of 1984 which had claimed an estimated 20,000 lives over the years and afflicted over a lakh of persons with a variety of ailments. Whatever has taken place in the two fields is mainly due to his efforts. But he left this world on Thursday night (November 14) without his own medical and economic rehabilitation.

Himself a victim of the world’s biggest industrial disaster, he was diabetic, had partially lost his eyesight (treated in a Tamil Nadu hospital with the funds collected through the efforts of senior journalist Hartosh Singh Bal) and was also suffering from heart and kidney problems. Sometime back his left foot was injured in an accident and the injury had developed gangrene. He was admitted to Kamla Nehru Hospital meant for the gas victims. Later he was taken to the so-called super speciality Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) which was constructed under the direction of the Supreme Court to provide specialised treatment to the gas victims.

Senior journalist and a close friend of Jabbar’s Aashutosh Shukla wrote in the Times of India two days ago that the two hospitals could not provide the required treatment to Jabbar. Shukla quoted Chief Medical and Health Officer (CMHO), Gas Relief, Ravi Verma as admitting to a shortage of expert doctors in the various Gas Relief hospitals and adding that Jabbar had been admitted to a private nursing home and the total expenditure on his treatment would be borne by the Gas Relief Department.

Whenever there was another programme like holding a rally or undertaking a march, the survivors made their own contributions to defray the expenses. This all had a disastrous effect on his family life as well as on his personal health.

Of the dozens of voluntary organisations which had sprung up in Bhopal in the wake of the tragedy, only Jabbar’s Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan (BGPMUS) remained active and completely dedicated to the victims’ rehabilitation. When Jabbar was not busy finalising a petition or appeal to seek relief for the victims, he was running around Gas Relief hospitals or dispensaries pleading the case of some survivor who had earlier been turned away. At other times he was trying to find some soft employment for those whose physical strength had been shattered by the effect of the MiC gas inhaled when the tragedy had occurred. His assistance had been sought by almost every one of the survivors either for getting medicine or for processing his papers for compensation or for pleading with a claims court judge who had rejected the papers on flimsy grounds.

Jabbar was shy of seeking funds. The advice by his friends to create a corpus (for which many of his well-wishers had expressed their eagerness to contribute) was always dismissed by him with cynicism. His belief was that fund collection led to various ills. Matters were arranged on ad hoc basis. Some public spirited advocates, Prashant Bhushan mainly, helped in preparation of petitions and appeals and some friends contributed for the paper work.

Whenever there was another programme like holding a rally or undertaking a march, the survivors made their own contributions to defray the expenses. This all had a disastrous effect on his family life as well as on his personal health.

With Jabbar’s death, it gets urgency. For those who wish to contribute, here are the details: Sayra Bano; Account No. 062510029807; Bank of Baroda (formerly Dena Bank); IFSC Code BKDN 0810625; T T Nagar Bhopal Branch.

After the Gas Relief hospitals had failed him and he was admitted to the private nursing home, the State Government had become aware of the gravity of his condition and taken the initiative to shift him to Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai, for better medical care. While the logistics were being worked out, Jabbar had two massive heart attacks, one after the other and that was all.

Some of his friends had, meanwhile, decided to seek public contributions to support his family comprising his wife Sayra and three young children. An account was also opened in a nationalised bank in Sayra’s name and an appeal was issued for contribution. With Jabbar’s death, it gets urgency. For those who wish to contribute, here are the details: Sayra Bano; Account No. 062510029807; Bank of Baroda (formerly Dena Bank); IFSC Code BKDN 0810625; T T Nagar Bhopal Branch.

N D Sharma
N D Sharma
is a senior journalist, and Patron of eNewsroom India.

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