welcome to my website
Dr. Sanjoy Kumar Pal

The Most Tragic Incidence of my life


December 3rd, 2009

I like to share my experience about the most tragic incidence of my life that happened exactly 25 years ago. The date was 3rd December 1984, I was doing my final year of graduation in Bhopal. I stayed in my Uncle’s house in Indrapuri, Bhopal. Indrapuri is a satellite township situated near the Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL), Bhopal. My uncle was a manager in BHEL. I used to live with my aunt, uncle, didi and Sandha our domestic help.

As it was my final year of graduation, I had to study late in night to prepare myself for the final exams in March. Bhopal is very cold during winters. To keep my self warm & stimulated I used to make tea myself without disturbing anyone in the house. I generally went to bed after mid night. That very night I went to bed around mid night and was in deep sleep when Sandha shook me and informed that there is gas leakage, dada run and she quickly ran away outside. I taught that I may have forgotten to turn off the gas burner, so I was frightened and rushed to the kitchen. However, I saw everything was perfect in the kitchen; I was annoyed with Sandha as she had disturbed my sleep, and then I heard lots of noise coming outside our main gate. I could not understand what the matter was. As I went to our front gate I was surprised to find people from the entire society standing in the street. And there was a state of utter confusion. It took me few minutes to understand what had actually happened. There was a huge gas leakage from the Union Carbide Plant. Many people affected from the gas leak were pouring in our society. Condition of many of them was very serious. There was tremendous panic and we all decided to run away from the city. However, to our surprise the entire highway was jam packed with people and there was no place for anyone to step in. All were running for there life.

I suddenly remembered my cousin who was working in Union Carbide Plant, his house was near by; I rushed to his residence to figure out the matter. However, his wife (Boudi) informed me that he was having night shift and is in the plant now. We were all assuming that he will be dead by now. Boudi was very anxious to know about his status. They were recently married and had a small kid. Few days prior to this incidence, Nishida (cousin), was quite upset as one of his close friend was seriously injured while working in the plant. He was exposed to some poisonous chemicals. When I asked about the matter he told me that there could be some big accident some day in the plant as the safety devises are not working properly. And there were some poisonous gases in the Union Carbide plant. If due to some human error safety norms were compromised than there could be a big tragedy someday. In fact there was about 8 such small incidence of gas leakage in the last 6-7 years. I asked him that in case there is any gas leakage in the plant is he safe? He told that they are safe as they have protective gas mask with them. Moreover, they can know which way the gas is moving by monitoring the wind flow. Gas will move along with the wind.            

By 2.00 AM there were a big group of gas affected people in Indrapuri. Many were not in position to run any more because the cold conditions. Elderly people were severely affected. There was tremendous panic and all were in a view that we should leave the place immediately. However, I studied the wind direction and found that the wind flow was not towards Indrapuri from the Union Carbide Plant. As the aerial distance from the Plant to Indrapuri is not much, by now the gas should have reached us. However, all depended on the wind direction, should it changes it course, we all will be affected. Till 3.00 AM, though we had some peculiar burning smell around but no one was showing signs of discomfort. Though the gas reached but it was not much concentrated to cause damage. I decided that I am not going anywhere and went to bed.

When I woke up in the morning, from my uncle and friends I came to know about the exact situation. There was huge casualty, however, the exact figure was still not known. To gauge the exact situation, I along with my friends took our bicycles and went to see the city. It was a miserable situation all around. The streets was full of dead bodies many of then died because of stamped rather than gas inhaling. There were dead animals all around. This was not very far away from Indrapuri. At this juncture we realized that we were very close to death. I really panicked, and decided not to venture any further and returned home. I could not sleep well for few days or concentrate in my studies. I have not seen so many dead bodies before in my life.


For almost one month I could not visit my college which was situated very near to the Union Carbide Plant. When I did visit my college, I found that some of my friend living in the city area was no more. Family of many friends was badly affected. Eyes and lungs were the two organs that were most affected. I took me almost 2-3 month to recover for this trauma. However, Nishida came home safe after about 2 days after the incidence. But he did not utter a single word what really happen that night in the plant. It was later known that almost 10 – 15 thousand people lost their lives in this tragedy. And another 10 – 15 thousand died later due to gas-related exposure.

It is 25 years now and I still cannot forget this tragic incidence.