Monday, January 31, 2011

The Screw up, The Cover up and the Suck up or Yet another post on Bhopal Tragedy

Enough is said already on the Bhopal Tragedy a.k.a The Union Carbide disaster a.k.a The Greatest Industrial Disaster Ever. Another long winding analyzing to death article is not in my mind. This is something that should've been avoided. Even worse, those responsible have escaped but the generations of those affected still endure the physical and emotional scars of the disaster. At least a million posts must've been done on this topic and mine is not meant to start even a semblance of discussion. There is just no use in it. I just want to get it out of my system. Been eating my brain for few weeks, this topic. I am not feeling all too well, but what the hell...never a better time to complete the post. Following is my inference of what I read so far.

The Screw up
  • It was initially proposed to build a 2000 tonne/year plant. But the board room geniuses in USA decided to build a behemoth of 5000 tonnes/year capacity. The plant never reached its full production capacity meaning, they always had unused stock of MIC used as raw material for the pesticide, Sevin. The MIC that started it all.

  • Safety and maintenance was never a factor during the plant's cost cutting spree months before the disaster. Faulty equipments, extended windows of scheduled maintenance added to the cause

  • The Company never shared the facts of MIC expose impact with its company doctors. The grave impact of MIC was studied in detail and locked away in some office in USA. When the local doctors called upon the company doctors for emergency treatment of MIC there was no answer whatsoever. Thousands of people died in the hospital for lack of proper medication . Worst is, until hours after the exposure, company doctors maintained that MIC exposure was non-lethal

The Cover Up

  • Bhopal Police's first response was to provide security to Union Carbide Executives.

  • Son of the soil, Shree. Arjun Singh Ji who happened to be the Chief Minister of MP then, also who happens to have a permanent Suite in Union Carbide's Executive Villa, ordered an immediate arrest warrant to Warren Anderson, then CEO of UC Worldwide. He was essentially picked up at the air port, escorted to magistrate office and released on bail for a personal bond of 25000/-. He was taken to Delhi straight and then to USA. That was the last of Anderson India will ever see. Till date, India has an arrest warrant pending for Warren Anderson.

  • Adding insult to injury, UC officials proposed that the only way to safely clear the remaining MIC is to use them to produce Sevin. The factory was fixed in record time. This was dressed up well and Arjun Singh, ever the fighter trumpeted that he will personally witness the disposal of remaining MIC. Political Machinery created enough hoopla and people even started leaving the city out of fear. Shree. Arjun Singh Ji and his Patni witnessed Sevin production at a very safe distance.

  • Indian Government appointed itself as the representative of the affected and closed the case with UC for a one time settlement of $470 million without admission of guilt. It came down to 63,000/- per family and 25,000/- per injured person.

  • Until today, every state government regardless of affiliation, tries its best to cover-up the issue. Numerous surveys were conducted but the results were never published. At one point, MP Pollution Control Board gave such a clean chit to UC, that Arthur D. Little, UC's consultant found it too lenient. The state government has tried to discourage/hinder every single private investigation into soil contamination post exposure.

The Suck Up

  • Startled by the impact of the exposure, and in need to maintain 'PROPER INVESTMENT CLIMATE' Central Government of India made every possible concession to Union Carbide. Till date, not one UC official was charged for the catastrophe.

  • Warren Anderson was given special protection by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He even accepted a meeting with him which was only canceled to rush Anderson home.
  • Dow Chemicals, the new owner of Union Carbide, is given special treatment and preference even now. Despite the chequered history, Dow is opening plants in India even now. It is allowed to sell products even banned in USA.

  • In 2008, Dow Chemicals was named as one of the respondents to a PIL related to the clean-up of polluted land. Dow Chemicals choose Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the buck toothed loud mouth lawyer from Congress Party. MP Chemicals and Fertilizers Ministry officials suggested Dow pay a token amount of 100 crore to start the clean up operations which started Dow. Days before the Indo-US Business Forum, Ratan Tata (the self appointed Corporate Mahatma) wrote to then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram about the possible fall out of having Dow bear the clean-up costs legally. He proposed quite magnanimously, that the government own the clean-up operations and the Tata Sons Trust along with several kind hearted corporate entities along with Dow Chemicals will voluntarily contribute to the fund. Worst thing was the finance minister and the commerce minister lapped up the offer. Tata backed off only after activists started ripping the mask off in national television.

No comments:

Post a Comment