Posts Tagged ‘Union Carbide’

Trust the politicians to indulge in their silly games of one-upmanship and buck-passing over the Bhopal gas tragedy. When they should have been going after Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals, they’re going after each other. While the farce continues, over whether Rajiv knew or didn’t know about Anderson’s flight out of India, the real issues – proving succour to the sufferers and extradition on Anderson to India – has taken the backseat.

Rajiv Gandhi is up there with Him (or down there, as some others would have us believe), so even if he did, does it really matter, anymore? The two people – one being Rajiv himself and the other P.V. Narasimha Rao – who knew the answer to this question, are both dead. So you can interview all the bureaucrats who served under them and unless someone actually says he informed the prime minister, it’s always going to be hearsay. Of course, when did that stop the politicians from flying off on a tangent?

If Rajiv really didn’t know, it casts him in even poor light – that of a prime minister who didn’t know what his chief ministers and bureaucrats were doing. Even worse is the fact that the CMs took decisions without informing him or even taking his permission. It doesn’t do much for Rajiv’s credibility as a leader of the largest democracy in the world.

I’ve always been an admirer of Rajiv – not because he was Indira Gandhi’s son, but because I think it took guts to take up the job of running the country, post the riots. And the fact that he was an honest man-made it all the more difficult in an environment where a lot of people didn’t care too much for the basic tenets of law and justice.

Compared to his mother, who was in every sense a politician – cunning, conniving and crooked, Rajiv basically seemed an honest guy and a gentleman. The problem was a lot of the people around him were leftovers from his late mother’s regime, and all just like her. They – the politicians and bureaucrats – who branded him a crook, didn’t do so because they knew he was one, but probably because they knew that once branded a crook, he would spend his time fighting off the allegations. It would ensure that he stayed out of their way and allow them to pursue their one-act agenda of making money. That is exactly what happened, till he was cleared of all charges on the floor of the Lok Sabha.

In that scenario to run a country, must have been a difficult task. As the Bofors deal proved after doing the rounds of the various inquiry commissions and being flogged to death by the media these 25 years or so, was that Rajiv had not taken a penny in the deal. So while he was basically an honest man, or at least so it emerges from various accounts heard and read, he was pretty naive and inexperienced in his early years as Prime Minister. And by the time he figured out a few things he was gone.

While I agree that the manner, in which the events that occurred after the Bhopal gas disaster were handled, was very amateurish, nailing Rajiv is hardly the solution. To first arrest Warren Anderson and then escort him out of the country was one of the dumbest things to do – especially, when he was assured safe passage into and out of India by the government. But, it still wasn’t as dumb as the NDA Government’s decision to allow the terrorists in IC 814 to refuel and then let them fly off to Kandahar!


Carbide ruling – so much for justice

Posted: June 8, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I hate to say I told you so, but I did say in August, last year, that the Bhopal gas victims were wasting their time, pursing a case which would bring them no relief -psychological or financial.

But I was shouted down by my well-meaning friends who castigated me for being uncaring and not recognising the fight for justice. My point was that victims should fight for financial relief instead of dragging people to court with the intention of sending them to jail. It made no sense fighting a 25-year-old case which was never going to help the victims.

And I believe the court ruling on Monday has proved just that. All those who were found guilty were out on bail within minutes. The near senile CEO Warren Anderson will NEVER make an appearance in an Indian court, because the US Government would never allow that.

And I’m not rubbing salt in the wounds of those who fought long and hard for justice, but if the survivors had asked for an enhanced financial relief package (apart from the $ 470 million they received initially) they might have got it, because the Americans would have paid, more out of a misplaced sense of guilt and pressure from lobbies within the US. But court cases, as the present one has proved, don’t matter an iota to a company like that because they have enough money and time to spend.

And look at what the US government said – that they don’t expect the verdict to reopen any new inquiries. They also hope this will bring the whole thing to an end! Is it their way of saying that sometimes pragmatism works better than sentiment?

What is interesting is the comment of a survivor, Rashida Bi, who I saw on TV saying that maybe it’s time the survivors too picked up a gun, because it seems the government only listens to those who hold them to ransom. Does everything have to end with a bullet? This could only happen in India…

My friend Vineeta, a journalist who has worked at senior positions for various publications worldwide, has said in her reply to my post on the Bhopal gas tragedy that if ‘Pinochet’ could be brought to justice, why not Warren Anderson?

Pinochet was never extradited to the US, he was arrested when he was in UK for treatment. But there was another Latin American general who the Americans nailed, which makes much more interesting reading. It shows us how to the Americans will allow a a drug smuggling general to flourish and even keep him on their payroll, as long as he doesn’t jeopardise their interests. The General in question was General Manuel Noriega, Chief of Defence Staff, Panama.

To all those who don’t know, General Noriega was ‘arrested’ from his home in Panama by a team of US Marines and DEA officials that flew into Panama and out with Noriega, before anyone in his security could retaliate. He was made to stand trial for drug trafficking in Miami, and sentenced to 40 years in jail. Think about it, the Americans abducted a general from his home in his country because they believed he was jeopardizing their interests in the region!

Now here’s the interesting part, before he fell foul with the Americans, Noriega was a protégé of the US Drug Enforcement Agency and the CIA. He was on the payroll of the CIA and made over $100,000 a year! The then CIA chief George Bush Sr. (who later became president) backed Noriega through his drug deals. He was even allowed to bring in cocaine in exchange for delivering arms to Nicaraguan rebels on behalf of the Americans. So much for America’s war on drugs!

But, when Noriega refused to support the Americans in their plan to invade Nicaragua, they went after him. In 1987, a Miami grand jury indicted him for drug-trafficking in absentia, and the CIA then tried to destabilize his regime. He was then forcibly airlifted out of Panama, flown to Miami, where he stood trial on charges of drug trafficking!

Now take the case of Bernie Madoff, the man who screwed millions of people of $ 50 billion of their hard earned money, while running, what we in India call an illegal chit fund. Look what happened to him. He got 60 years in jail. Is Warren Anderson any different from Madoff? But Anderson will get away clean. Why?

Because he did not ‘harm’ Americans or American interests. If Union Carbide had released some poison gas in the US that had killed thousands, Anderson would have been serving 200 years in jail. But it happened in India, so the whole of India can go blue in the face screaming for Anderson’s blood, but they’ll be lucky if they get a beep out of the Americans!

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.