India’s Bhopal disaster verdict a farce

Burial of an unknown child, Bhopal 1984 caused by the U.S. chemical company, Union Carbide.

There was anger in India today as the verdict was given in the Bhopal disaster trial over 25 years after a gas leak killed up to to 10,000 people and 15,000 over the next fifteen years due to the effects. While seven Indian nationals received only two years for negligence the corporations involved and Union Carbide’s then-chief executive, Warren Anderson remains at large from criminal prosecution. If anything, the entire court case was a farce for the victims and the people of India.

On the night of December 2 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, released 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate into the atmosphere. Over 8,000 men, women and children died immediately from the poisonous gas, a further 15,000 people have died since then and over half a million people have been poisoned as a result.

More than 120,000 people suffer from ailments, including blindness, extreme breathing problems and gynaecological disorders.

How it happened is no secret. The Union Carbide plant in Bhopal did not have any of the six safety systems in operation. At the time of the disaster the company had already ceased operations after failing to sell its pesticides to the poor farmers in Bhopal.

However, they left behind a host of deadly chemical materials which sparked the world’s worst industrial disaster. The safety protocol which was adhered to whilst the plant was in operation, was abandoned without any due care or attention, which left the people of Bhopal living on a potentially explosive minefield.

On the night of December 2, this potential minefield detonated, caused by an employee flushing a corroded pipe which eventually exploded, causing an uncontrolled reaction. The blast released a deadly cloud of Hydrogen Cyanide and other chemicals, which the wind cruelly carried into the populated areas of Bhopal, killing thousands instantly.

Rashida Bee is president of the Bhopal Gas-Affected Women Stationery Employees Union. Local female survivors formed this union, and it is a leading member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal; and recognised as one of the chief representatives of survivors both within and outside India.

Rashida holds US corporate chemical multinational giant, Dow Chemical, responsible for the disaster and its after effects. It was Dow Chemical that took over the operations of the Union Carbide plant, and Rashida demanded justice and compensation for the victims.

Speaking to an audience at the Crossroads Women’s Centre, in Kentish Town Road, London, on April 16 2005, Rashida spoke about how US multinational Union Carbide was taken over by Dow Chemical which made napalm and Agent Orange used in Vietnam. Today, toxic chemicals continue to spill into the land and water, poisoning the present and future generations. Toxic chemicals are also found in the breast milk of women living near the plant, and Dow Chemical refuses to clean up the site.

The Bhopal Medical Appeal & Sambhavna Trust, mentions on their website how people continue to suffer the effects of the gas leak today. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, “Breathlessness, persistent cough, diminished vision, early age cataracts, loss of appetite, menstrual irregularities, recurrent fever, back and body aches, loss of sensation in the limbs, fatigue, weakness, anxiety and depression …alarming rise in cancers, TB, reproductive health problems and others such as growth retardation among children born after the disaster remain undocumented.”

Treatment is hampered by the fact that Dow Chemical refuses to share information it holds on the toxic effects of the chemicals it has produced, claiming that it is a ‘trade secret.’

Today, seven Indian nationals who were employees of the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal was sentenced to only two years in prison for causing death by negligence, not one single European involved in the disaster was put on trial.

Union Carbide’s then-chief executive, Warren Anderson who fled India when the disaster occurred, remains free living in New York.

The Indian Mail Today headline read “Shame On India”, The Express, The Times and NDTV news channel focused on Warren Anderson who the Indian government made no effort to convict.

The Indian government has let down its own people over corporate greed and real justice for the victims of the Bhopal disaster remains at large.

For further research:

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=18799

http://bhopal.net/2010dharna/blog/

http://bhopal.org/index.php?id=11



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