Friday, August 1, 2008

Unite..atleast in the face of adversity

Although I have tried to restrict my "blog" to topics such as philosophy and other creative writing, a few news articles that I have been reading, have compelled me to write about the issue ..The Bhopal Gas Tragedy. I do not know how many are truly aware of this incident that had occurred a few decades ago. To be perfectly honest, as a kid I did hear about it on the news but until now I haven't had the curiosity to dig the facts deeper. I am grateful to a web site run by a group of satirical artists who call themselves "The Yes Men" to have helped me garner interest in this issue all over again.

On December 3rd 1984, A Union Carbide subsidiary pesticide plant released 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, killing approximately 3,800 people instantly in Bhopal, India. This is still considered as the worst industrial disaster in the history of our world. "Two decades later, more than 100,000 people have permanent injuries, light or severe. The groundwater around the plant area remains contaminated, and the question of cleaning up the area is still unresolved."

This was just around the time when there were still very strict laws governing the safety standards that a chemical plant had to follow throughout the world. To state the facts, this company was owned partly by (51 % by the Union Carbide Corporation) and partly by the Indian Government (49 % stake). In adequate compensations were paid to all the victims amounting to around $500 which by all means is insulting considering the irrevocable damage it has left behind. Also, after the so called "compensation" paid out, all the toxic chemicals and wastelands remained uncleaned. A few years later, this company merged/ was bought by Dow Chemicals. It is very appalling, that the management of such a large and renowned corporation like Dow must vote in favor of being associated with Union Carbide. This deal was worth 12 billion dollars. Meanwhile, the CEO of Union Carbide, decided to abscond (later found to have fled to his house in Long Island, NY) after he was charged with culpable (multiple) homicide, in India. The US Government, even after having known his involvement in this case, decided NOT to extradite him to India to be tried for the charges, in-spite of having an extradition treaty with India.

To not get into the specifics of who evaluated the damage and provided compensation for the victims, I would primarily state 2 main parties that are at fault for cheating the victims and letting down humanity, in general.

Union Carbide/Dow Chemicals, for having followed sub-standard safety and there is no denying the fact that this gross negligence was the cause of this disaster. Had the Management ensured that same regulations being enforced in the US at that time, were employed in the plant in India, this disaster could have been averted.

Secondly, being from India, I am aware of the kind of corruption that has and is still taking place in my country. People have done terrible things to other humans for money. Politicians and Governments have done the worst imaginable things to their own people in the name of progress, being completely aware of the fact that this is in-fact detrimental to the progress of the society. Human and Work laws are very unethical and deals are done in the dark and the truth never sees the light. I can be very sure of the fact of the involvement of politicians and some top government officials, who are to be blamed for such a terrible accident to have taken place. The very officials who have the job of protecting the interests of the people. I blame the Indian Government, to have allowed such poor conditions to have existed at Union Carbide. I also blame to government squarely to have allowed Warren Anderson leave the country and then crib about extraditing him back.

Indian Government - Have a back bone and do the right thing. At least now, clean up the mess left behind by the company. Ensure that such a thing never happens again and enforce stringent rules and severe punishment to all the executives of companies that do not pay attention to the minutest of details when it comes to safety of their employees. Ensure that the people responsible are punished. If not an extradition, at-least try extending your support out to the people who have suffered so much, instead of harassing them for silently and non-violently protesting the "indifferent spectator" role that the government has played all through these years.

Finally, power in hands of almost all people can be very dangerous. Only the intelligent and wise should wield it or it can destruct all, including those inept ones that hold it. One must realize that money and power isn't something that can taken with you after your death. The only thing we need is our conscience that needs to be human and the rest will follow.