India

Indian media: Bhopal disaster victims 'denied justice'

Survivors and relatives of Bhopal gas victims hold photos of the victims during a candle light vigil on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the tragedy on 1 December 2014. Image copyright EPA
Image caption Relatives and survivors held a candle-lit vigil on the eve of the anniversary

Thirty years on the day after the 1984 Bhopal disaster, several Indian papers voice anger at the treatment of the victims of the chemical leak that killed at least 3,000 people.

The Indian Express marks the anniversary by publishing the pictures and brief profiles of families affected by the disaster, adding that "many who lost their loved ones are yet to come to grips with it".

The Hindu reports that the incident at the pesticide factory of US firm Union Carbide still "hounds" Bhopal residents three decades on, as studies show continuing soil and groundwater contamination.

"For thousands of residents of Bhopal, the disaster began the night they choked on the air which smelt of burnt chillies, and it hasn't ended yet," the paper says in an editorial headlined "No closure for Bhopal".

It adds that survivors received a "pittance" as compensation, top Union Carbide executives were not tried and the Indian government showed a "lack of sensitivity".

"Bhopal will be remembered for the horrors of industrial negligence, and equally so for its aftermath of apathy and criminal callousness."

The Deccan Herald is equally scathing, saying the victims of the toxic methyl icocyanate leak are "still no closer to justice".

"Those who were exposed to the toxic fumes struggle till today with blindness and diseases such as cancer, respiratory problems, and immune and neurological disorders.

"And yet, little has been done to end this ghastly nightmare."

'Bravehearts' and 'mute spectators'

The incident in which two sisters successfully fought off three men harassing them on a bus prompts a debate about what the Hindustan Times calls the "by-stander effect".

Pointing out that nobody else on the bus filmed in the video of the incident appears to have come to women's aid, the paper says this "apathetic attitude" is as much a problem as police inactivity.

It suggests that India should pass a Good Samaritan law to protect those who help people in danger, while urging ordinary citizens not to be "mute spectators".

"It is not enough to honour the bravehearts, as we like to call them," it concludes. "The public must do its part and not leave vulnerable people to fend for themselves when they are attacked."

A commentary by Piyasree Dasgupta in Firstpost agrees, arguing that it is time to "drill some accountability into the public".

"It is perhaps time to tell people that staying silent isn't going to keep them out of trouble," she adds. "Because honestly, I see little difference between a molester and ten others who facilitate his exploits by turning a blind eye."

Jeans OK after all

And finally, several papers report that a Hindu group has tempered an apparent call for girls to be banned from wearing jeans in school.

On Sunday, the group - Akhil Bharat Hindu Masabha - called for a new dress code in schools and colleges prohibiting girls from "wearing tight jeans and tops", as well as "indecent" clothing in general, according to the New Indian Express.

But asked whether the women in the bus assault incident would have been able to defend themselves if they had not worn jeans, an official of the group appear to soften its stance, the paper says.

"We are not against girls wearing jeans but we are against girls wearing skimpy clothes," he was quoted saying.

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