Bhopal gas tragedy – is it worth the trouble anymore?

Posted: August 2, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

It’s amazing how much energy, time and money people have to spend in their pursuit for the truth – especially when they don’t have a hope of coming within even sniffing distance of it.

I am referring to the people fighting for justice in the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984. After an explosion occurred at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal on the night of December 2, 1984, 40 tonnes of MIC gas leaked out of the plant killing thousands of people even as they slept, and affecting thousands more, even today. The incident is considered the world’s worst industrial disaster, but have you wondered why the culprits were never brought to justice?

While I don’t want to comment on the latest ruling of a Bhopal court which has asked the CBI to arrest Warren Anderson (former CEO of Union Carbide), because the court is only doing what it is supposed to do – dispense justice – do the people who have been fighting the case, actually believe that the CBI is going to do anything about it? For an investigating agency which everyone knows is run on the whims and fancies of the government and has a history of unsolved cases, we are expecting a lot!

Incidentally, Anderson did fly into India in 1984, soon after the incident on his own volition after he was assured that he would not be incarcerated. But on his arrival in Bhopal he was promptly arrested, then released on bail. He fled on his private jet and never returned despite being summoned by the court on various occasions. There were reports that appeared at that time, that the Rajiv Gandhi government had allowed Anderson to leave and then subsequently stalled any further moves to bring the man back, because arresting him would send out “wrong signals” from a country that was looking to liberalise its economy!

The interesting thing is that Union Carbide merged with Dow Chemicals, another chemical giant with a history of environmental violations in the past five years, which has thrice faced lawsuits in Canada for releasing CFC in the atmosphere. Can the people of Bhopal expect any help from these guys?

There is also the ‘small matter’ of compensation running into roughly over $ 400 million that has already been paid to the Government. How much of that has actually reached the survivors?

Sorry for being such a cynic and a pessimist, and while I don’t doubt the intentions of people who wish to exercise their fundamental right to ensure justice, I think at times they stretch it a bit thin.

The point is it’s been 25 years since the incident and nothing has happened till now except some compensation being doled out to the survivors. The news made headlines even in the US, and the Americans had demanded action against Anderson. But the US government didn’t lift a finger then. So to hope for Anderson’s arrest now, is expecting too much, especially since he is 89 and not in sound health. Had they done that soon after the accident he would have been spending his last days in a Bhopal jail.

Instead of going after Anderson, the victims should demand billions (preferably in double figures) of dollars more in compensation. That’s the best way for them to move on.

  1. Zubin Kabraji says:

    Some people do and the rest only talk – Indians generally fall into the latter bracket along with the Americans.

  2. Anonymous says:

    In addition to the calamity of apocalyptic propostions, Union Carbide buried the wastes on its way out means that more people continue to be affected due to contamination of the groundwater. The company have refused to own up to their culpability and liability in this regard. Instead, the government continues to let Dow Chemicals build plants in non-descript places…like Chiplun. This is why the protests need to be kept up. Extraditing Warren Anderson is a way of saying justice must be done, never mind his age. Vineeta

  3. Anonymous says:

    …and by the way, if Augusto Pinochet could be extradited at his age, why not Warren Andersen??

  4. Joe Pinto says:

    My dear Sinha,A few facts and views for the public record. I was on the night shift at Maharashtra Herald, Pune, on that day, when the poisonous gas leaked out. When I look back, I wonder how I made the pages that night, with my tears staining the pages, soaked with the blood of the innocents who were murdered.We thought it was a "leak". Now we know the gas "poured" out. Bhopal was the site of a "chemical genocide" like the 6th of August at Hiroshima and the 9th of August at Nagasaki were both "nuclear genocides" in 1945.The issue of justice has NOT only got to do with Warren Anderson, who is a symbol of an irresponsible corporate boss. We easily believe that governments are corrupt. But we are reluctant to admit that the private corporate sector is also corrupt and will go to enormous extents to cover up their crimes and misdeeds.Union Carbide (UC) was taken over by Dow Chemicals, which benefits from the assets accumulated by UC, but washes its hands off their liablities like the Bhopal tragedy.Even today, Dow is doing similar terrible things that UC did. "Managing" Indian govt. officals, manipulating the law, exploiting loopholes, concealing the facts from the local people. All this has been well-documented by our brave Vinita Deshmukh in the weekly Intelligent Pune (see: have got your facts mixed up, Sinha. At the most, you may admit you've grown tired of pursuing some of the tyrants of this world. But you must not demoralise the persons who want to bring them to justice. Pursuing Warren Anderson is like pursuing Pinochet, and all the other tyrants that the CIA found to be its "worthy" dictators, who supported the national interests of the USA and the commercial interests of multi-national corporations like Union Carbide then, and Dow Chemicals now.No one must be allowed to forget Bhopal.Our very own elected ministers and governments bend backwards to accommodate and welcome these persons and companies, because cool bucks can be made.We, the people, and the few journalists, who care, have to persist. (I dare to hopefully include you Sinha, despite your honest pessimism and frank cynicism.)I am sure you will not take me amiss.Peace and love,- Joe.

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