BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY

June 30th, 2010 by Ravi Matah | Posted in News   No Comments »
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Twenty-six years ago, on the night of 2-3 Dec 1884, 20,000 people were killed in leakage of methyl isocynate gas from the Union Carbide Company Ltd. in Bhopal, which is the largest known industrial catastrophie. Known as UCIL (pesticide plant) it was a subsidiary of Union Carbide Company which is now owned by Dow Chemical Company.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy

Bhopal Gas Tragedy

The tragedy  has since been called as Bhopal Gas Tragedy. On 7th June, 2010, the Court verdict awarded the seven senior Indian officials accused, found guilty of the criminal negligence,  a jail term of two years, since that  was the maximum punishment prescribed under this section. They were allowed to be released on bail of $5000 each.
 
Soft punishment at the hands of the law has angered the effected massses and they are  now crying foul.
 
The Group of Ministers has submitted a report on the Bhopal Gas tragedy on Monday to the Prime Minister, and many doubts, ambiguities and accusations of malafide are bound to be allayed.
 
It is believed that GoM headed by Home Minister P.Chidambaram has made some definite recommendations both on legal proceedings and matter of additional compensation to the victims of the gas tragedy or their kin.
 
Concrete measures proposed are – the polluter must pay adequate compensation, Parliament must pass a resolution to scrap this $ 470 million ‘settlement’ between Union Carbide and the Government of India,  all efforts should be made to force Dow Chemicals  to shoulder the liabilities of 1984, and also that Warren Anderson should be extradited.
 
The GoM have recommended a package in this regard, which provides for $22,000 to the NOK of those killed, $ 4000 for those permanently disabled or suffering from critical ailments and  Rs. 3 lakhs for those who have been partially debilitated. All told 44,000 victims have been identified though the protestors alledge that the actual number is too high.
 
Victims of the Bhopal gas disaster say the new compensation effort by the Indian government is too little and too late.
 
Efforts to get large compensation from Dow Chemical have so far been unsuccessful.
 
Union Carbide pulled out of Bhopal after paying a $470 million settlement in 1989 and then said it was the responsibility of the Indian government to clean up the site.  The new compensation by the government adds about $270 million.
 
U.S. President Barack Obama had recently said in his ‘tweet’ that he has forced BP to set aside $20 billion in compensation to those affected by the current Gulf of Mexico oil spill. A similar yard-stick should be applied and Obama should direct Dow Company to shell out the requisite compensation for Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims.
 
And 26 long years after the accident, the Union Carbide Company CEO Warren Anderson is still a free man, enjoying his retired life in a palatial country home in the Long Island ? He was granted bail on the condition that he would present himself in  the  Court as and when required.
 
A TV news channel found out that he was living lavishly in a bungalow in Long Island and after speaking to the wife of Anderson, all the journos could tell us is that he was not well and could not give an interview.
 
It needs to be noted here that Anderson was indeed arrested by the Bhopal Police under Section 304(II) when he arrived there soon after the tragedy. And then quietly and mysteriously released on bail on 7th, Dec. 1984 on US $2100, and whisked away to the USA.
 
Now we have the nuclear deal with US. What happens if the toxic waste spills out? Or will India be a dumping ground for it? And what is the responsibility of the foreign suppliers in case of any accident in future? 

The requisite parameters for safety of the general public should be in place and the existing laws that punish the negligent in the event of industrial accidents should be suitably amended, if required.
 
The safety and the well being of the common public have to be ensured at all costs.
 
                                        

Ravi Matah.

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