14845 - june 12, 2010 Economic & Political...

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Unformatted text preview: june 12, 2010 Economic & Political Weekly EPW june 12, 2010 vol xlv no 24 7 Chronic Denial of Justice It will be a miracle if any of the rich-and-powerful Bhopal accused ever go to jail. A nxiously waiting outside the court of the chief judicial magistrate Mohan M Tiwari in Bhopal on 7 June, 36-year old Raghu Jaidev and many other victims of the Bhopal catastrophe were crestfallen, some of them, outraged, upon hearing the outcome of the trial that had dragged on for almost two decades. “Rich people always get away”, said Jaidev, “we poor keep fighting till we die”. That remark neatly sums up what we too have to say. The release of 45 tonnes of methyl isocyanate ( MIC ) gas on the night of 2/3 December 1984 from the Bhopal plant of Union Carbide Corporation’s ( UCC ) Indian subsidiary Union Carbide India Ltd ( UCIL ) killed some 8,000 people in the vicinity in the next 72 hours and left innumerable others blinded, suffering from major pulmonary disorders, with abnormal pregnancy outcomes, and/or a whole host of other acute and chronic morbidity conditions. Many more were to die in the years to come and the numbers suf- fering toxic exposure and damage are now estimated at half a million. Indeed, the groundwater of the factory and its immediate vicinity is contaminated from the leakage of toxins from the abandoned UCIL factory, in turn, polluting the water table. But Dow Chemical Company, which acquired the shares of UCC in 2001, denies any responsibility for UCC ’s Bhopal liabilities. The UCC did not think twice about the grave harm that large- scale storage of MIC was likely to entail. Its double standards did not permit such storage at its plant in West Virginia in the United States. There was not the least discomfort in locating such a haz- ardous plant in the heart of the old city of Bhopal where multi- tudes, indeed, millions of poor people dwelt and scraped out a bare livelihood. Further, it is clear that the UCC never parted with crucial information regarding the toxicity and epidemiology of the MIC-based technology it decided to adopt. Did the government of India and the Madhya Pradesh ( MP) government, responsible for monitoring health and safety, even insist on such disclosure? The UCIL management even shut down the refrigeration to cut operating costs, something that increased the risk of the disaster, but the government inspectors did not bat an eyelid. The sophis- tication of the safety systems at the West Virginia plant and the outmoded nature of the same at the Indian plant said a lot, espe- cially in the wake of an earlier gas leak in the latter in 1982....
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14845 - june 12, 2010 Economic & Political...

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