Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tragedy continues in Bhopal

I was deeply disturbed & disappointed by the verdict delivered by a Bhopal court in the gas tragedy that happened way back in 1984.

Twenty six years after the world’s worst industrial disaster, which took the lives of more than 15,000 people and maimed thousands for life, judgement has been delivered in the case. The judgement for the culprits is unbelievable. Just 2 years jail ... no need to serve that either. All convicted were let off on bail immediately. And the main villain of this horrific event Mr.Warren Anderson never had to face the trial. He didn't even had to spend a single minute in jail for being the main reason for such a horrible event.

Just click on this link, which was posted on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy in 2004. The pictures & the events following the gas leak will melt the heart of even Osama Bin Laden. But, it seems, our politicians’ minds are made of iron; they are just not bothered about the episode; no willingness to either to punish the culprits or to provide adequate compensation to the affected people.

Question of Anderson's extradition

Some people argue that it is too late to extradite Anderson & make him face trial, as he is already 90 years of age.  Anderson is leading a luxurious life in New York.

My take is, better late than never. Even though it doesn’t make sense to call for his extradition & make him face a trial due to his age, it will give a sense of satisfaction to all those affected by this disaster that the main villain has been punished. I don't think he would have lost all his senses that he doesn't even remember having manslaughtered 15000 innocent lives & made the lives of thousands of people miserable. Let him spend his remaining life in the Indian jails.

Further, I was surprised when I found that the US is still pursuing cases pertaining to Nazi War Crimes !!! US Government is fighting a case against Mr.Vladas Zajanckausas, a 93-year-old Lithuanian-American, to deport him for trial to Lithuania for alleged Nazi war crimes. This case clearly shows the double standards adopted by the US Government.

Compensation to the victims

It is said that the Government of India had claimed USD 3.3 billion from Union Carbide (source) as compensation on behalf of all the victims. However, for unknown reasons, the Government finally agreed for a paltry USD 470 million, a mere 15% of the original claim. 

This compensation works out to a pathetic US$ 500 (around Rs.25,000) for a person. The Dow Chemicals spokesperson had remarked in 2002 that "$500 is plenty good for an Indian". Click here to watch what Mr.Ramachandran, former CBI Joint Director and Mr.K.Parasaran, former Attorney General of India, who represented the Government in settlement, have to say regarding the tragedy.

This amount paid by Union Carbide is just the insurance amount.  So, effectively, the company has not incurred any liability for its stupid, reckless & inhuman acts.

Clean-up of the site

No solution has been found, till date, to clean up the tonnes of toxic waste left over on the premises of the now defunct plant (source). The deadly chemicals have contaminated the ground water in & around the area & has made it unfit for drinking purpose.  Dow Chemicals, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, is unwilling to take any responsibility to clean up the site. 

Nuclear Liability Bill:

It is apparent that the our Prime Minister is eager to "gift" the Nuclear Liability Bill to the US President, during his visit here later in the year. It is said that the liability cap of a mere 300 million US dollars has been proposed in the bill in case of any accident (source). It is also believed that a key clause holding the foreign suppliers responsible for willful negligence in the bill has been dropped to "please" the Americans.

One can only hope that better sense prevails & the Nuclear Liability Bill is re-drafted taking into account the horrific experience in Bhopal.

Our Legal System:

Our Legal System has to be completely revamped urgently. It's really pathetic that it took 26 years for the court to deliver the justice in a case, pertaining to the world's most horrific industrial disaster.  According to the Economist, India's courts have a backlog of more than 20 million cases, which by one judge's estimate would take 320 years to clear. 

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