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Bhopal Gas Tragedy

June 8, 2010



I was watching with interest the much awaited verdict in the Bhopal gas leak tragedy case that claimed over 20,000 lives some 26 years back.    The 7 convicted were passed a mere 2 year sentence with a bail fixed at a modest Rs.25,000/- for each.   Union Carbide, which is anyway no more in existence, was let off the loop and so was its president Anderson who’s living as a fugitive in  New York which is an open secret.

My hearty condolences to survivors over even victims.

Anyone ever thought in this angle?   Or am I the first heartless desi to think in these lines?

On Management and higher-ups facing the flak/shouldering responsibilities:

Industrial accidents are not uncommon in  harazduous fields of work (though not of Bhopal size always).  All the engineers & managers know the risk components, yet they’re doing their bit to better the society we live in.   There are ppl we know who are shy of coming out to the frontline and facing the fire/flak.    I think, it takes the bravest men to take on such huge responsibilities.   Life is for winners/risk takers.   So sometimes i guess its very unfortunate that the same men who lead from the front have to face the consequences in case anything goes wrong (awfully wrong as in Bhopal).

So how can the quantum of punishment be so huge & thoughtless for those higher-ups who actually are not aware of day-to-day affairs of industrial projecss?   They are THE REAL SHOW=RUNNERS still its not possible for them to keep a 100% control over everything & everyone upto the bottom/grassroot levels.   If responsibility cannot be shared down the heirarchy levels,  then what is the meaning of delegation of authority?   Shouldn’t the responsibility levels of these guys be limited?   I mean, if a company is going defunct, u can pull them up for mismanagement.    Pull them up for diversion of funds/for frauds/for cheating.   For industrial accidents/criminal negligence, its those who are directly in the line of operation who must be made answerable, right?   In case, accident is due to wrong instruction from supervisers/junior engineers, then responsibility should cover them as well.   But going on all the way to higher-ups – its just not acceptable.

In Bhopal gas leak case, justice is done i feel.   The light sentence of 2 years is for criminal negligence alone.   Not for loss of 20,000 lives.   I feel the judgement is fair.   But i am not downplaying the huge human loss.   Union carbide must be made to pay a hefty price for this careless slip/criminal negligence.   If its stake is bought over, then the US govt must be held responsible to pay up for the damages.     Why not when they’re bailing out bank after bank that went down in last 2 years?   Suing is one good option.   But how much more time would this take?    As such 26 long years have fled past without any substantial remedy.    No compensation is sufficient to cover the loss of life at an inappropriate time – not to mention the endless sufferings of those inflicted with poison gas.   There are still children born in Bhopal with serious birth defects.   Rate of cancer is extremely high in Bhopal ever since.   Unfortunately, Union Carbide no more exists.   So a way must be found to get right compensation for the victims’ families to lighten their agonies.   Financial rewards might not over-all negate what damage had been done – but will go a long way in minimising the effects atleast.

What is the use of throwing a bunch of management people into prison?   What effective purpose  can it serve.   I can agree with financial compensation/package but not with quantum punishment for senior level staff.   Pl, i am not heartless.   Its outrageous that inspite of so much work done by managers who take on such a huge burden of responsibility, they must be made to pay for silliest negligences/criminal negligences committed by those over whom they have no direct control.   Or some responsibility must be shared as per hierarchy.   Some degree of immunity has to be given to managers.    Forever, these poor, brave hardworking guys have this democles’ sword hanging over their heads.     This is not fair.

Same way, one more totally different criminal case i can cite which recently hogged publicity.    NOw this totally has no connection with Bhopal case.  I am merely using this as an illustration to show how what we see is not always what law sees.

Its Ruchika molestation case.   14 year old school girl Ruchika Girhotra was molested by 45 yr old DGP SPS Rathore of Chandigarh some 17 years back.    Not in a lone room, not in a secluded spot – but in a crowded party.   So how much molestation is really possible.   I mean, i am not being cruel.   I am just making clear, this is something every girl/woman suffers in her life many many times.   Its nothing unusual or strange.    2 years later in 1994 or so, the girl Ruchika committed suicide due to mental trauma.   Sentence of 2 years was very recently passed on Rathore and he was stripped of his medals.    The punishment is for molestation alone – not for Ruchika’s death.   I can understand what Ruchika’s family went thro’ or even poor young Ruchika went thro’ prior to her suicide.   But how can the offending DGP still be punished for her death?    That too for what happened after 2 years ?    I am at loss to understand the manic fervour of our media to see Rathore hanged.   Its portrayed as if Rathore killed her personally.   Not true – but sure he damaged that girl somehow very badly that did her in.   While i have no sympathy but pure abhorance for Rathore for what he did to a girl who was like his own daughter, i can’t agree more with the justice delivered.    Sentence is for physical evidence, physical crime – that’s the point.

Many times i see both the media & the public being carried over by hysteria over cases like these.   I still feel Rathore can be held responsible only for molestation.   For anything that transpired after that, linking Rathore is not technically righ, or  that’s how i see it.   I mean, he sure psycologically wrecked Ruchika – but we women all grow up that way, don’t we?

Public anger is one thing; igniting passions is one thing; but deciding on the exact quantum of punishment for the exact crime committed is another thing.   I feel one should know the differences betn these 2.    Law is very specific.   And Law takes it own course.  U cannot wish to stretch it.   ( i am a big fan of John Grisham whose specialty is Legal fictions which i luv.    I get an idea therefore  abt where exactly even Law stops and the line beyond  which even Law cannot reach)   For Bhopal gas tragedy victims, even though, it might sound heartless, i feel the financial package/ compensation is the best suited remedial deal/measure.  True, Indian Laws were/are still primitive & quite inadequate  to handle cases of such nature/magnitude & something has to be done towards this.   With cyber crimes increasing  for instance, our statutes have to be REVISITED shortly – the earlier the better.   For Ruchika’s case – well, i just have to say that WE WOMEN HAVE TO BE SIMPLY STRONGER FOR OUR OWN SAKE, that’s all.

I am member of the FB group GreenPeace India.   I guess we are now in a position to demand what we want & decide the quantum of liability the external investors should share.   A simple thing we can do is to join the signature campaign canvassed by this group  & raise under one banner to stop the present nuclear liability bill from being passed in our parliament.   If this bill is not stalled, then once again, the offending foreign firm can slip away just like Union Carbide did with Bhopal – in the event of a future such occurance (GOD FORBID).    I understand, the bill limits the external liabilities when an untoward nuke accident might take place in India.    I’ve given my signature already.   My H is also an active member of Greenpeace group.  (Go Green).   Takes cloth bags to malls now & is not using plastics as much as possible.   Not that it can be avoided totally – but he limits his usage.    This is a small something we can do for our part.




Justice Ahmedi , CJI  in those times, himself diluted the charges against Union Carbide from ‘Culpuble Homicide’ to ‘Criminal Negligence’ which helped UC get away + its top man Warren Anderson to flee India.  None other than Arjun Singh himself made sure that the old man had an easy exit.  Rajiv Gandhi had just taken over as our PM then, so its not possible for Anderson (who was arrested formetly)  to flee India without Rajiv’s knowledge.

Justice Ahmedi went on to become the Chairman  of the trust board instituted by UC by selling out its stake to fund the bhopal victims.   This is unabashedly a serious conflict of interestd.   Such a shame = how our ministers & even chief justices have sold out the nation’s poorest & weakest.

UC & Bhopal open a can of worms every single day.

This is one comment i read in TOI:

GNS Sydney,Australia 10/06/2010 at 02:51 pm
Dominque Lappierre’s book , Five Past Midnight in Bhopal: The Epic Story of the World’s Deadliest Industrial Disaster,gives a graphic account of the tragedy including Arjun Singh being a frequent guest at Union Carbide ( UC )’s guest house.It was Arjun Singh that possibly helped Anderson escape India.UC was storing a large quantity of deadly MIC which UC will not in its own plants in USA.As drought hit India in 1980s,pesticide production was cut by UC but MIC had no where to go : but UC shut air conditioning that would have regulated temperature to cut costs,stopped flares for burning escaping excess MIC.All in all criminal negligence and UC did NOT even tell hospitals in Bhopal the antodote for MIC !


PS  (afterthought after a couple of days !):

I am revising my opinion slightly on Bhopal.   I was too young at that time (1984) but now i come to know that safety norms were delibrately flouted by the company.   There were already some accidents prior to this one ghastly leak and safety audits were done, but nothing came of out of it.   In which case, it puts the company officials def. in a dire spot.   Anderson should have been indicted but his name did not even figure in the chargesheet.    So as per charges framed, the sentence passed is ok.   That’s what i wanna say here.   1984 – India was very backward ; and we did not even have a clue as to what we were getting ourselves into.   Now we are in a much better position.   So why are we going ahead & passing the Nuclear Liability bill that limits the responsibility/caps the extent of liability of these foreign corporates to pathetic minimum levels.   Personally i don’t believe, extraditing Anderson to India is the solution.    Irreversible damage is done.    Remedy lies in bringing adequate compensation in form of financial aid to victims & their families.

Some more related topics:

I believe Bhopal made the world sit up & take a fresh look at safety norms & pollution hazards & toxic materials.


From → Dilli Durbar

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