Blogs > Cliopatria > Bhopal 1984

Dec 1, 2004 12:33 pm

Bhopal 1984

Corporate malfeasance is one thing: Enron robbing millions of dollars; Halliburton backroom dealing into billions; WorldCom hyping their stock. But killing over 20,000 people and destroying the lives of 100,000 others in Bhopal, and getting away with it is a different matter.

Union Carbdide Corporation has a timeline that states:
In December 1984, a gas leak at a plant in Bhopal, India, caused by an act of sabotage, results in tragic loss of life.

It then refers you to their official site on the incident. The corporation's history states that methyl isocyanate (MIC) leaked from its Bhopal plant, causing 3,800 immediate deaths and several thousand disabilities. UCC took immediate action and CEO Warren Anderson flew over to Bhopal with a team of medical experts. However, he was advised to the Indian govt. to get out of the country for his own safety. He did. UCC took steps to provide settlements and worked to build a hospital for Bhopal, while Warren Anderson told Congress that this"will never happen again". All litigation against this US owned and operated corporation was banished outside the borders of the USA by the Appeals and the Supreme Court. Settlement was reached in the Indian Supreme Court to the tune of some 400 million (for 550,000 victims) and it was left up to the state of Madhya Pradesh to clean up the site. UCC refused to take any responsibility. Dow Chemical, though late to the party - they merged with UCC in 2001 - doesn't want to hear anything about Bhopal.

What was UCC doing in India? Giving them the"Green Revolution" of course. That wave of Developmentalism that swept across the globe in the early 70s introduced chemical pesticides to make India self-sufficient in agriculture. The Indian govt. coveted the foreign investment and technology and had little problem allowing them freedom of operation. After the disaster, it did all in its power to make sure that UCC came to no harm by suppressing victim accounts, allowing, nay"urging" UCC executives to leave the country and forcing victims to settle the case. But, there are other memories of what happened twenty years ago. Here is a list of information by Amnesty and Greenpeace has an exhibit of photographs taken in the immediate aftermath. And more photographs. And personal narratives of sufferings.

In the meanwhile, activists have been pressing this case for twenty years. They forced the Indian govt. to request the extradition of Warren Anderson.Denied. Yet, they keep the struggle for justice and accountability alive.

The Corporation - an aggregate legally authorized to act as an individual - still cannot be prosecuted for homicide (negligent or otherwise) in India.

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More Comments:

Julie A Hofmann - 12/1/2004

Be that as it may, it certainly does nothing to promote either justice or corporate responsibility.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/1/2004

One of the things the Indian government did was assert its right to represent the victims in legal proceedings and in compensation negotiations. The reasons for this were many, but included the fact that the victims lived in shanties on land close to the plant, illegally leased to them by local officials in violation of the law. That is, local officials placed the victims in the path of danger. Moreover, the properties of the Indian legal system played a role. In that system, the loser pays, and to ensure that happens, the plaintiff must post a bond pre-trial. The inhabitants of shanties are, understandably, short on cash to post the requisite bond.