If there has ever been a story of a mass murder perpetrated by a corporation then it is without doubt Bhopal.
This was not a accident. It never had been. The Bhopal incident was the inevitable culmination of a foreign company’s cynical disregard for human life in a third world country. To start off, the Union Carbide plant had decided to go with “untested production processes” for producing and storing some of the hazardous chemicals used in industry. Then when they saw that the demand for their pesticides was lower than expected and that they were hemorrhaging financially, they tried to transfer their plant to another third world country. This particular plant was so unsafe that Brazil or Indonesia would not allow them to bring it to their soil. So now they decided to reduce operational costs by drastically cutting down maintenance personnel. The Union Carbide management, headed by one Warren Anderson, was made aware of 61 hazards (30 of them major) by their own inspectors to which they did nothing except further let the safety systems rot for reasons of economy, installing instead safeguards for the plant in West Virginia (since American lives ARE valuable). [Link]
Later on, when Union Carbide was acquired by Dow, a company that advertises itself as as the Human Element (possibly implying that it harvests human souls having itself a glorious legacy of Agent Orange[link], Dow Corning Implants [link] and DBCP [link]), it declared itself “not liable” for the liabilities of the “asset” it had bought (it has accepted liabilities for Union Carbide assets in the US though [Link] ), betraying its sensitivity to “third world” slumdogs with the statement of its Public Relations officer Kathy Hunt : “You can’t really do more than that, can you? $500 is plenty good for an Indian.” [Link]
Read that again. The Public Relations officer of a company, yes the Public Relations Officer once again, saying “You can’t really do more than that, can you? $500 is plenty good for an Indian.”
You know what? I think she was absolutely right. $500 is plenty good for an Indian. It is a much bigger price tag on an Indian life than a fellow Indian would give.
After all the government of India is made up of Indians. So is the legal system. And yet it is the Indian government and the courts that have actively protected a corporation that killed 20,000 of its citizens. As is now revealed, Warren Anderson, the butcher of Bhopal, was released from custody on the basis of a phone call from Delhi and escorted to Delhi, isspecial class, in Arjun Singh’s own private plane as a state guest [Link]. It was the Indian government that settled for the ridiculously low amount of US $470 million from Union Carbide and it was the Indian courts that ratified the agreement. It is again the Indian courts that essentially reduced charges of culpable homicide (despite the mountains of evidence against Union Carbide [Link]) to that of a drunk driving traffic accident. Even that mild rap on the knuckles was given twenty-six years later, to the small fry, including one person who was already dead. And most tellingly, it was the Indian government, as revealed by a former head of the CBI, who refused to press hard for Andersen’s extradition, possibly because of the fear of what he might reveal if he was pressed too hard and if that was not enough, also took control of Union Carbide premises with the toxic chemicals still present there once again absolving them financially of the responsibility of disposing of their noxious shit. [The chemicals, never disposed of, have seeped into and poisoned the aquifer, a fact the local government refuses to acknowledge despite the pools of mercury on the ground (Link)]
But even that to me is not the most shocking part. That would be what I heard in the late 80s, of people from Kolkata and other cities, going to Bhopal and through touts registering themselves as victims. Given this is what ordinary citizens do to fellow citizens, how can we expect the government and the courts to be any better, far less the US government which will definitely protect its own, that too one that contributes generously through lobbyists [Link], more so because the deaths have been caused in a non-Caucasian country.
Did I just call the fraud claimants as the most shocking thing? I am sorry. I take that back. The most shocking thing is that even after all this and the BP oil spill off the Gulf coast, the government of India is pushing through a bill that would limit liabilities for nuclear plant operators to a laughable 300 crore [Link]. I have said this before and I will say it again that every time I think I have seen the worst the Indian government can do, it pulls out yet another trick from its anal orifice, almost as if it just wants to prove you wrong.
Infuriating. No make that f-ing unbelievable.