Posted in India Shining, Life's Like That

Justice Delayed Justice Denied : Bhopal Gas Tragedy

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Bhopal Gas Tragedy is one of the worst industrial disasters that took place 25 years back  . On December 3rd 1984 ,in the place Bhopal, the capital city of Indian State , Madhya Pradesh around midnight  there was a leak of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other toxins from the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) , now a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company, resulting in the exposure of over 500,000 people.  Around 15000 people have lost their lives directly and indirectly because of this gas tragedy. Poor safety norms of UCIL is one of the prominent reasons for this tragedy.

According to wikipedia , the leakage is explained in the below manner:

In November 1984, most of the safety systems were not functioning. Many valves and lines were in poor condition. Tank 610 contained 42 tons of MIC, much more than safety rules allowed.During the nights of 2–3 December, a large amount of water entered tank 610. A runaway reaction started, which was accelerated by contaminants, high temperatures and other factors. The reaction generated a major increase in the temperature inside the tank to over 200 °C (400 °F). This forced the emergency venting of pressure from the MIC holding tank, releasing a large volume of toxic gases. The reaction was sped up by the presence of iron from corroding non-stainless steel pipelines. It is known that workers cleaned pipelines with water. They were not told by the supervisor to add a slip-blind water isolation plate. Because of this, and the bad maintenance, the workers consider it possible for water to have accidentally entered the MIC tank.UCC maintains that a “disgruntled worker” deliberately connected a hose to a pressure gauge. UCC’s investigation team found no evidence of the suggested connection.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster)

However, as we, the individuals who are not part of the investigation team cannot say that the above mentioned reason is the exact reason for the leakage.

So why is that there is a sudden outburst to this tragedy after somany years??? On June 7th 2010 after 25 years of the tragedy, finally the verdict for the case came out and can you imagine the punishment given to the UCIL authorities responsible for the disaster – Eight accused were sentenced to 2 years in jail. However,the judgment has no word on Anderson, 89, then chairman of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), US, who was declared absconder in the case.

Entire issue is not just about the punishment to the UCIL or any other authority responsible for the tragedy. Its all about the Justice to the victims and all the people effected by that tragedy. Thousands of people lost their lives, thousands of people’s health is tremendously effected even now. What is the value given to the Human Lives??? Why is that it took these many years to give the verdict. Isn’t the justice delayed justice denied.

Without Visionary Entrepreneurs countries don’t prosper. Its only because of their risk taking nature and interesting ideas several interesting industries and companies come up. However, the safety of the people and the respect to the values of the people is of prime importance. Hope all the corporates in the World learn lessons from this Bhopal Gas Tragedy and  ensure, respect the value of human lives.

Following is the chronology of the events of BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY:

December 3, 1984: Toxic methyl isocyanate gas releases from Union Carbide India Ltd’s (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal killing about 15,000 people and injuring at least five lakh others. Millions were left sick and the affected passed on the harmful effects of the gas to the next generations.

December 4, 1984: Warren Anderson, the chairman of Union Carbide, is among nine people arrested. But he was freed on bail of $ 2,000, upon a promise to return. Union Carbide is named as the 10th accused in a criminal case charged with culpable homicide.

February, 1985: Indian government files claim for $ 3.3 billion from Union Carbide in a US court.

1986: US District Court judge transfers all Bhopal litigation to India.

December 1987: CBI files chargesheet against Warren Anderson and other accused, including UCC (USA), Union Carbide (Eastern) Hong Kong, and UCIL. Summons served on Anderson and UCC on charges of culpable homicide.

February 1989: CJM, Bhopal, issues non-bailable warrant of arrest against Warren Anderson for repeatedly ignoring summons.

February 1989: Indian government and Union Carbide strike an out-of-court deal and compensation of $ 470 million is given by Union Carbide.

February – March 1989: Public protest against the unjust settlement followed by filing of a number of review and writ petitions against the settlement in the Supreme Court by the Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangatan (BGPMUS), the Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangarsh Sahayog Samiti (BGPSSS) and other concerned groups.

1992: Part of $ 470 million is disbursed by the government among Bhopal gas victims.

February 1992: Anderson declared fugitive by law for ignoring court summons.

November 1994: Despite numerous petitions by survivors’ groups, the Supreme Court allows Union Carbide to sell stake in UCIL to McLeod Russell (India) Ltd of Calcutta.

September 1996: Supreme Court dilutes charges against Indian officials of Union Carbide India Limited -subsidiary, majority owned by Union Carbide Corporation [UCC] – partly on grounds that culpability lies with UCC.

August 1999: Union Carbide announces merger with US-based Dow Chemicals.

November 1999: International environment watchdog Greenpeace tests soil, groundwater and wells in and around the derelict Union Carbide factory and finds 12 volatile organic chemicals and mercury in quantities up to six million times higher than expected.

November 1999: Several victims and survivors’ organisations file an action suit against Union Carbide and its former CEO, Warren Anderson, in federal court of New York, charging Carbide with violating international human rights law, environmental law, and international criminal law.

February 2001: Union Carbide refuses to take responsibility for UCIL’s liabilities in India.

January 2002: A study by Srishti and Toxics Links finds lead and mercury in breast milk of nursing mothers in communities near the plant.

June 2002: Bhopal gas tragedy survivors launch a protest in New Delhi when they hear the Indian government plans to drop charges against Anderson.

August 2002: Charges of culpable homicide are maintained against Anderson by Indian court, which demands his extradition to stand trial. Meanwhile, a British newspaper reports that Anderson is in New York after US authorities say they are unable to locate him.

October 2002: Protests to clean up former UCIL factory site in Bhopal that activists say contains thousands of tonnes of toxic waste.

May 2003: The Indian government formally conveys its request for extradition of Anderson to the US.

March 2004: A US court says it could order Dow Chemicals to clean soil and ground water in the abandoned factory site if the Indian government provides a no objection certificate. The Indian government forwards the certificate to the United States.

June 2004: The US rejects India’s request for extradition of Anderson saying the request does not “meet requirements of certain provisions” of the bilateral extradition treaty.

July 19, 2004: India’s Supreme Court orders the Central Bank to pay out more than 15 billion rupees, part of the original $ 470 million received as compensation kept in the account since 1992.

October 25, 2004: Bhopal gas victims protest the failure of the government to pay victim’s compensation.

October 26, 2004: India’s Supreme Court sets deadline of November 15 to pay out the rest of $ 470 million paid by Union Carbide as compensation.

June 7, 2010: All eight accused, including the then Chairman of Union Carbide Keshub Mahindra, in the Bhopal Gas disaster case convicted by a court.

(Source: http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article448771.ece)

Regards,

Prasanna Rayaprolu

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A fearless Czarina and Shameless optimist who lives life by her own rules