The Swedish general practitioner Ingrid Eckerman, 70, does not get permission to entry India in order to visit the family that has adopted her as a “grandmother”. The reason is that she has written a book about the Bhopal Gas Disaster in 1984.
- I have been a close friend of the family since 1994, and I regard the nine grandchildren as my own, Dr Eckerman sais. During 17 years I visited them at least once a year. But now, I have not been able to see them for nearly three years. The small kids have forgotten me, and the last one I have not even seen.
- What is difficult just now is that my “daughter” is seriously ill. She is the one earning the money for the family, and I need to look after that she gets the right treatment.
The start was that Dr Eckerman was a delegate of an international medical commission to follow up the medical long term effects of the well-known gas release inBhopal, the night between December 2 and 3, 1984. She was invited to the family. Mutual love grew between her and the first grandchild, then only one year old.
The love to the family was the reason that made Dr Eckerman return year after year. Simultaneously, she reflected over theBhopal catastrophe – the one where 500,000 people were exposed to toxic gases from Union Carbide’s chemical plant. There were many rumours going around, and it was difficult to decide the truth. She collected all written information that she could get hold on, read it all and structured it.
The result was the book ”The Bhopal Saga – Causes and Consequences of the World’s Largest Industrial Disaster” that was published inIndia, 1994. Here she states that the responsible parties for the magnitude of the disaster, irrespectively of the direct cause, were Union Carbide and the governments ofIndiaand Madhya Pradesh.
- I was even on first page of Times of India. In spite of this, during several years, I had no problems to get visa.
In 2008 her “sister” suddenly died. This was when the problems started. She never got a response to her visa application, and the ambassador denied her contact. She had to wait for a new ambassador who gave her visa two times. But the third time, when a third ambassador had arrived, in January 2011, she was sent back by return flight, in spite of a valid visa, and in spite of that she was invited guest for a conference.
- This was a terrible experience. I was denied to talk to the person who made the decision. I was crying, I refused to go to the plane until they threatened with police. I knew that all the family had prepared for my arrival. Luckily, I had a working telephone number in my mobile and could leave a quick message.
Since then she has written to the President, the Minister of Home Affairs, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and the Ambassador – without getting any kind of response. She has sent lists with the names of 100 persons who support her as a grandmother, and 75 who support her professionally.
- Now I give up. I am crying at the thought of never visitingBhopal, not being able to follow the growth of the grandchildren. I cannot show the victims for multinational companies my solidarity – I use to visit Sambhavna, the clinic for gas victims, and Chingari, the habilitation centre for handicapped children. And I am not able to visit this contradictory country, where I after all feel at home.
Dr Eckerman is not the first person to be sent back by return flight. There are examples of journalists and scientists who have the same experience.
- But I am not a scientist, neither a journalist and definitely not a terrorist, and I cannot be compared to the well-known Marxist author Jan Myrdal. I am a retired doctor who wants to see her grandchildren. I have not even followed what is happening in theBhopalmatter – there are others carrying on, mainly inUSAand GB.
- Of course I right a lot, for Swedish Doctors for the Environment, where I am the president, and in my private blog. But it is about environment and health and about domestic politics.
- If I wanted to write critically aboutIndia, there is a lot of material on the net, Dr Eckerman ends. But I am not a journalist. I have got indications that the situation inIndiahas got worsened. Usually I say that I believe thatIndiais as democratic asUSA – but now I have to reconsider this.
See also later pressreleases
Dec 1, 2012 28 years since the world's largest industrial disaster
Dec 2, 2012 Disabled children celebrate the anniversary of the Bhopal disaster
My website www.eckerman.nu
My blog www.ingrideckerman.blogspot.se
The Bhopal Medical Appeal www.bhopal.org
The Chingari Trust www.chingaritrustbhopal.com
The International Medical Commission on Bhopal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Medical_Commission_on_Bhopal
The Bhopal disaster http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster
Others who were sent back:
Statsrådsvägen 11, SE 12838 Skarpnäck, Stockholm, Sweden
+46 8 600 15 56, mobile +46 70 55 73 193
INGRID ECKERMAN - allmänläkaren som förbjuds hälsa på sina "barnbarn" i Indien
INGRID ECKERMAN - the family doctor who is forbidden to see her "grandchildren" in India