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Unformatted text preview: PERSPECTIVE June 26, 2010 vol xlv nos 26 & 27 EPW Economic & Political Weekly 68 Colin Gonsalves ( firstname.lastname@example.org ), a senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India, is executive director of the Human Rights Law Network, New Delhi. The Bhopal Catastrophe: Politics, Conspiracy and Betrayal Colin Gonsalves Despite the Union Carbide Corporation being criminally liable for the Bhopal catastrophe, the government, though being the sole representative of the victims, colluded with the UCC and compromised the interests of the affected people. The UCC and its Indian subsidiary, the Union of India and the state of Madhya Pradesh made sure that the victims would not obtain compensation comparable to the damages awarded in similar mass tort actions in the United States. Moreover, even with the re-institution of criminal liability, the UCC accused have been allowed to evade prosecution. The trial court in Bhopal had no option but to hand down a sentence, equivalent to what is given for causing death by negligence in a traffic accident! Bhopal has hastened the decline in the standards of judicial decisions on the environment more than any other case. T he paltry payments made to the victims, the escape of the chairman of the Union Carbide Corporation ( UCC ), Warren Anderson on a government plane, the neglect of the babies born subsequently with terrible deformities and ailments, the inability of the state to clean the contaminated soil, the petty sentences rendered and the 26 long years in the Trial Court, all seem separate in- stances which, though regrettable, are treated as issues of governance and not one of politics, conspiracy and betrayal. Let us not look at the past, we are advised, let us look to the future to ensure that such an incident does not take place again. But unless we understand the treachery of the past, it is impossible to change things for the future. Indira Gandhi’s death and the appoint- ment of Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister of India marked the end of the era of the Indian version of social democracy started by Jawaharlal Nehru and the beginning of American-style globalisation. Rajiv Gandhi started off well with Ronald Reagan, the then President of United States. It is said that the understanding between these two leaders ultimately led to the pitiable settlement being agreed to by India, the quashing of all criminal liability and the removal of Anderson from Indian soil. Arjun Singh, naturally, will be made the scapegoat as if decisions of this magni- tude could be taken without the prime minister’s approval. In the power play of globalised politics, all this is understandable, though it may make us angry. But the inability of the S upreme Court of India to stand firm and side with the people of India against UCC and the government of the United States of America ( USA ) left many Indians con- fused and frustrated. The long line of decisions starting from 1989 ultimately left them bitter....
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