Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain: A film Review
Visual by Shreya Sharma
In the race of globalization, the government has become a provider of dehumanized technologies and has failed to address women's concerns, and further failed to provide adequate facilities and measures. Women are still fighting and facing the consequences of the gas tragedy. Even today, the people of Bhopal are still waiting for total compensation as they cannot carry out their daily lives in a usual way due to the disabilities caused by the gas. Several of the survivors, who had assembled at the dharna in Nov 2014 at Jantar Mantar, said that “We are waiting and watching over the reaction of the BJP government. We know that Mr. Modi is keen on inviting a lot of US corporations to invest here, but there should be adequate checks and balances in place so a tragedy like the Bhopal disaster will not recur.” After the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, many industrial failures, ignorance, and lack of legal solid and administration laws resulted in many such incidents like the 2014 GAIL Pipeline Blast, 2014 Bhilai Steel Plant Gas Leak, 2017 Delhi Gas leak in which around 470 school children were hospitalized after inhaling poisonous fumes that spread due to a chemical leak at a container depot near two schools in the customs area of Tughlaqabad depot, 2020 the toxic gas leak at LG Polymers’ polystyrene plant in Vizag, show that the Government didn't learn anything from their mistakes, incidents are continuously happening, people are dying. Still, the Government is focusing just on the so-called development of which is debatable and questionable.
The Bhopal gas tragedy introduced a new debate around globalisation and its impact on the vulnerable classes specially women's how the industrial revolutions and its development is affecting people. This tragedy also read one of the historical movements by women of Bhopal. There were many women fighting for Bhopal gas leakage survivors, Rashida Bee, Champadevi Shukla, Nausheen Khan, and Shehzadi who raised voices at the local and global level as well and even got recognition like they received the Goldman Environmental Award (also known as alternate Nobel Prize for Environment) 2004, Ator Pal Mont Award, in Italy in 2008, at a moving ceremony at the American Public Health Association, the duo was honored with the Association’s Occupational Health and Safety Award in 2004 and the Casa Asia award in Spain in 2008. Women survivors of the Bhopal gas leak experienced a much higher rate of infertility due to the reproductive toxicity of Mi, so they were unable to bring future children to full term, and the disaster killed or disabled many of their children. Such stigma in Bhopal destroyed women's lives within their families and community; they could not give birth to healthy children. Hence, they were stigmatized, faced isolation from society; in extreme cases, hundreds of women were divorced by their husbands. “The toxins have also seeped into the water of Bhopal, and despite fighting for clean water since 1996, we did not get clean and pure water till 2011 for the rehabilitated people in bastis. The leak affected Boyson, our bastis; many are impotent, and those who have fathered children have kids with some disability. Nobody wants to marry girls from our bastis, too.” said Rashida Bee. There were slogans on the wall outside the forum union “carbide factory Bhopal the real face of globalization,” Bhopal the historic site of the world's worst industrial disaster movement slogans like “no more Bhopal” Many organizations after this incident, for example, Zehrili Gas Kand Sangharsh Morcha and Nagrik Rahat Aur Punarvas Committee, The Bhopal Group For Information And Action established to raise these concerns.
In 2014 a film Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain by Ravi Kumar released that was based on the Bhopal disaster in India on 2–3 December 1984, the film stars Martin Sheen, Mischa Barton, Kal Penn, Rajpal Yadav, Tannishtha Chatterjee, and Fagun Thakrar.
The film started with, a few months before the night of the disaster, a rickshaw driver Dilip who lives in a slum with his family and works in the factory. Where officials neglect safety and maintenance. Reporter Motwani published reports on his printing press which were disregarded by most of the officials and workers. Roy, the plant safety officer, expresses his concerns about the plant and its toxic effects. The officials, however, ignored warnings, and one of the workers was killed when a drop of methyl isocyanate leaking from a pipe landed on his arm. Letter on one fine day (when tragedy happened) safety measures fail and a runaway reaction starts. One not-so-good-conditioned tank causes the gas to leak, and any attempt to contain the leak fails. The gas escapes to the surroundings. As the gas shows its effects, a nearby hospital is filled with hundreds of patients reporting cyanide poisoning, and the lack of antidote results in most of the patients' death. The film ends with “Safety is everybody's business” written on board, and Motwani narrates the words, “Whatever may be the cause of the disaster, Carbide never left Bhopal.”
This film, even after focusing on essential issues and concerns about the Bhopal gas tragedy, forgets those marginalized sections of people who also suffered. There is no perspective about women, neither the consequences they faced nor how they stood up against this incident. Anjali widge points out, “it is considered complete or real only when she becomes a mother. She proves her womanhood in this way and feels secure in her marriage because it is believed to bind the marital relationship. As a mother, she feels she has accomplished what she was supposed to do as an adult woman.” She adds, “There is a huge stigma attached to being fertile soils and childlessness have negative implications in Indian society, especially for the women fertility defines womanhood and women who are defined by the women's capacity to mother.” Similarly Patrika Jeffrey talks about “such a woman would be pitied if not worse for failing in this essential task. She would be considered a bad omen.” The tragedy of methyl isocyanate leak from an industrial unit has not allowed some women to be mothers again. The women here face stigmatization due to these similar notions that women are incomplete if she can't become a mother. The city's third generation, born after the disaster in 1984, is also suffering from ailments.
Nowhere in the media talk about the failure of this movie in the context of marginalized sections. It shows mainstream media's ignorance over the issues, especially when it highlights women's concerns; the 'academic ignorance' is also visible in this case; fewer interventions on these issues resulted in the invisibility of the problems related to women in disasters and distress.
However this movie needs to be brought up in the mainstream because it reflected the failure of the government to show the real and remote face of globalization, how in the name of globalization people are facing, and what Clinard, Yeager and, Economist Will Lepkowski says “Corporate crime.” The movie accidentally shows how this commercialization of toxic chemicals is a process by which developing countries rise up in the world by incorporating chemical manufacturing plants into their economies. Environmental socialist Robert Bullard on environmental justice describes the process of profiting off of a lack of infrastructure as “Toxic colonialism” that is a function of international capitalism by which corporations profit-maximizing by exporting toxins and the production of chemicals to less developed countries. These are some of the examples showing how the Bhopal gas tragedy was at a certain level not just a local issue but a global.
This event, even today, is about environmental, social, medical, economic, and political disasters. But there is not enough academic interest in this topic in school and college curriculum, in medical courses, or disaster management. No law school talks about this. In my opinion, the fact that they are not showing the points is because it reflects their failure; it exposes the natural face of Globalization and the Welfare state. It shows how the State focuses on sectional development where there is no place for ordinary, average masses; they remain invisible, untouched who are just facing the consequences of the action. There are many questions about who benefits from debatable developments. The film ends with mention of “Safety is everybody's business,” which shows how safety has been transformed from state moral/legal duties to a business controlled by dominant, centralized people, and how safety and security are commercialized in a marketplace created by Globalization. Even though the movie remains silent about women's perspective and story, there stands their trauma and suffering, which will stay for a long time; it does show how the government failed as a provider and protector. The film makes sense that we need to look at these issues as the state failed and state-led incidents because they didn't learn from their mistakes and in the name of accident or tragedy they use these colored words which are not unknown to everyone that there is systematic failure involved in it.
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