New Delhi: On the eve of International Yoga Day – a world event being observed for the first time on June 21 at the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – the victims of India’s worst industrial disaster have accused the government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of hypocrisy for denying them access to yoga therapies.
Organisations representing the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster have been campaigning for the introduction of yoga therapy for the care and treatment of chronically ill survivors in the six hospitals built for them, something they say the government has denied them all these years.
On Saturday, members of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Karmchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, and Children Against Dow Carbide, protested the denial of yoga therapy to the gas disaster patients by striking different yoga postures at an abandoned yoga centre, and accused the Madhya Pradesh state government of misutilising the funds set aside for yoga.
The campaigners said that they had organised a 19 day fast in 2007 to convince the government to start yoga therapy for the victims. The government relented, but offered such therapy only at 2 of the 6 hospitals. Subsequently, even those minimal services were stopped in 2009. Six of the seven centres built to promote yoga among the survivors have been abandoned, and one of them is now used as a venue for wedding parties, the organisers said.
Balkrishna Namdeo of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha said that while the program was functioning, around 2000 patients reported relief through yoga therapy for problems such as breathlessness, joint pains, back ache, menstrual irregularities, insomnia and others chronic ailments without taking steroids, painkillers and psychotropic medicines. Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha’s President Nawab Khan said that they had filed RTIs to fid out why yoga treatment was stopped at the hospitals. “All the superintendents made the same ridiculous claims that medicines did not have any side effects and Yoga had no health benefit for gas victims.”, he said.
The yoga centres that were built by the government at a cost of Rs. 4 crore each have also been abandoned. The organisers claim that while the government keeps endorsing yoga, they have not acted to promote it. Their actions, they claim, are driven by other considerations. “Most of the state government’s hullabaloo on yoga is but a charade. Its officials and ministers are too busy earning commissions on the purchase of medicines to be actually using yoga to benefit the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster still awaiting proper medical treatment,” alleged Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action