More articles by

Deepak Tiwari
Deepak Tiwari


Women of fire

CLEANING ACT CLEANING ACT: Champadevi Shukla (left) and Rashida Bi went to the US, the UK and Australia and gave brooms to the officials of Dow Chemicals | Arvind Jain

Hum Bhopal ki nari hai, phool nahi chingari hai (We are the women of Bhopal; we are flames, not flowers)

Rashida Bi and Champadevi Shukla —survivors who lost family members in the Bhopal gas leak—are two pillars of the struggle for justice in the team of Satinath Sarangi aka Sathyu. The two wom-en made history when they pre-sented brooms to Union Carbide and The Dow Chemical Company officials in the US and Europe.

In 2004, they won the Goldman Environmental Prize (often called the Nobel Prize for environment) for their campaign for justice to victims of Bhopal. Rashida and Champadevi come from a very poor background, but they did not keep the $125,000 prize money for themselves. They used it for setting up the charitable Chingari Trust for the spastic and disabled children of the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy born after 1984.

Managing trustees of Chingari, they are examples of how Sathyu promoted local people to become leaders and fight their case.

The trust with a staff of a dozen volunteers provides medical treat-ment and rehabilitation to children with defects or those facing threats to their lives from the pollution and contamination of water around the Union Carbide plant. It also gives an annual Chingari Award of Rs50,000 to a woman activist work-ing for environment and fighting against polluting units to prevent Bhopal-like disasters.

Apart from running classes for disabled children, the trust con-ducts door-to-door survey in gas-affected colonies to identify chil-dren with congenital disabilities. It has arranged rehabilitation and also medical camps with specialist doctors to diagnose and prescribe holistic treatment.

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