For entire humanity, the Bhopal Gas tragedy is a haunting memory of a horrendous industrial tragedy and corporate misadventurism in which, 25 years ago to this day, enormous quantities of poisonous Methyl Isosyanate spread from the Union Carbide factory at Bhopal, caused for the death of more than thirty thousand (officially around 10000) and paralyzed entirely or partially the lives of half a million city dwellers of Bhopal.
However that was only the inception of tragedy that further nurtured the permanent recklessness of political, administrative and legal officials; besides very objectionable role of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have had disastrous affect over study of effects of mass poisoning.
The whole gamut played after this brutal incidence is a shocking reminder of our policy makers ineptitude and their casual treatment with mass murderer corporate giant Union Carbide; indeed such lavish treatment with an offender overseas company is hardly visualize anywhere in entire history of modernism.
The Union Carbide factory set up in 1969 to produce Sevin, a pesticide key to India’s green revolution, the eighty two acre compound at Kali Parade, Berasia Road in Bhopal was chosen as hub of poison production by completely ignoring the nearby dense human population and livestock. It’s quite astonishing to see that so called, methodological western conglomerate could foresee that particular locality as their playing field; moreover disparity on cautious measures were alarmingly high in comparison of its sister concern in U.S.A which Indian authorities had inspected in 1989 through a mutual agreement.
So, fortune was completely diminished for victims from all the sides, no one has played fair- court, government, ICMR (Discontinued its studies for mysterious reason), industry….except the wishes of common folks, alas! But they couldn’t be counted nor found deciding for victim’s fate. Anyway, through all hue and cries, on February15, 1989, the government of India reached a compensation settlement with Union Carbide for $470 million which was strikingly low from initial of $3.3 billion.
But the brink of the disaster was not halted there as the compensation proceedings were further prolonged to 1994 with an account showed Rs713 crore, that was drastically low from the rupee-dollar exchange rate of that year; in actuality it should have been Rs2847 crore (with normal interest for 15 years). There was huge mismatch in account which was no way possible without the indulgence of top-notch officials in political and administrative circle, consequently matter was halted there and an average Rs12, 410 was distributed among the victims which were out rightly perilous from the sake of humanity.
In independent India, several mishappenings have occurred and they have been meeting with the mixed responses depends upon the kind of political involvement; several railways accident and particularly the Uphar Cinema case could be a formidable example, the last one genuinely epitomized the fairer handling with the plights of victims where in comparatively very short live tolls, victims anyhow received a compensation between Rs15 to 18 lakhs.
Its grave jolt on the ethic’s of concerned authorities that despite in progress of twenty five years of that black day, still the matter of the toxic cleaning is hanging out, far from being resolved. An initiative by Ratan Tata to clean up the toxic site was a great showing of the Tata’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but unfortunately that too couldn’t bloomed much in proper manner.
In later development, American chemical giant Dow, which purchased Union Carbide in year 2000 also followed its predecessors insensitive practices and never came up with its moral and legal liabilities of which the plights of lakhs of victims formed a large chunk.
It’s very heartbreaking to see similar approaches from government; two major incidents is vivid in my mind, first one of Bhopal Poisonous Gas Leakage Inquiry Commission headed by Justice N.K.Singh (Than active in service of Madhya Pradesh High Court) was called off within a year and without any explanations. Second one was commission under the ICMR (1985) to look after the assessment of long term effects, have been keep commissioning 24 reports in nine years but eventually could produced only two juvenile researched report at the end of its project on Bhopal Gas tragedy in 1994.
For the victims of Bhopal Gas tragedy, it’s both shocking and solacing to receive huge emotional sharing from disorganized sections like, Common folks, Community workers, Philanthropists, Artists, Intellectuals etc. Although some of institutional men like Dr D.N.Banerjee and his team of Centre for Rehabilitation Studies shown the ray of hope through their relentless and honest deeds, but due to scarcity of financial resources and government support, they are facing upright adversaries.
In their limited means whatever they have done on research at long impact of this debacle is indeed commendable and praiseworthy. They shows the wish, so they find the way, here it’s quite imperative to recall that such tragedy occurred through cyclical policy lapse but deepen though the failure of collective action which basically emerged from a mass level erosion of conscience what we are witnessing since last twenty five years. Being the foremost growing economy of the world, we can anticipate for better collective awareness through striving to building and strengthening the foundation of civic consciousness , otherwise there may be more starker ramifications of corporate recklessness would struck us. So, its better to build our consciousness to fight injustice rather than making monuments in the fond memory of our loving innocent victims…developments must have to be sustainable.
Atul Kumar Thakur
November 3rd2009, New Delhi