Bhopal: Monday marks the 28th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy. For most victims, the scars still remain. But the Swabhiman Kendra is easing their pain by empowering them.
Shobha Soni still remembers waiting for her husband on that dark night of December 3, 1984. Her house was just 500 metre from the Union Carbide factory where the horrific gas leak happened. What ensued was a life of struggle with two sons lost to the methyl gas leak and husband rendered workless and the court became the most frequented place. Her life changed when she joined the Swabhiman Kendra floated by Abdul Jabber, the founder of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan.
"I had nothing to look forward to. The Kendra helped me become self dependent. Everything including stitching zari etc is taught here. The kids are also taught computers," Soni said.
Soni is just one of the 4,500 gas victim women and girls whom the Swabhiman Kendra is trying to empower. Apart from teaching them stitching and offering a diploma, the Kendra also helps sell their products.
"The centre taught stitching and craft work. I'm a gas victim, my husband is dead. I get a lot of assistance from the centre that helps in the education of my children. I have breathing problems and problems in my eyes as well," said another victim Sofia.
Help has also been pouring in. Tech major NIIT has donated computers to the Swabhiman Kendra and 600 victims have already learned how to operate them. For Abdul Jabbar, the man behind this centre, the idea is to make people self reliant.
"During the initial days, relief was just in terms of distribution of food, milk, cash. I thought we were turning the mindset of the victims into those of beggars. My first slogan was we don't need donations. We need employment," Jabbar said.
Apart from empowering them, the Bhopal gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, with a 35,000-strong membership, is also preparing the gas victims how to take the fight for justice forward. With 6,000 protests and 11 PILs and counting, this organsiation is keeping the flame going strong.