My heart bleeds …Every daily has pictures which raise thousands of questions and tell sad, unexpected, shocking and tragic tales even after 25 years of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
Twenty-five years after the world’s worst industrial disaster shook Bhopal (My City ) on December 2, 1984. my hear aches as i see the pictures, read stories and watch television showing victims and the pathetic state of the area till date.
25 years ago shortly after midnight on December 3rd, 1984 in the city of Bhopal, India, tons of lethal gases leaked from a pesticide factory run by the US company. A negligence which caused the lives of the innocent and the future who did not see tomorrow.40 tons of toxic gas spilled into the city, killing tens of thousands of people. Methyl isocyanate caused the mass death. It prevents oxygen from entering the blood when inhaled. In just one night, thousands were killed. Chaos and panic broke out in the city and surrounding areas as tens of thousands of people attempted to escape.
We witnessed the twice as heavy as air, the poisonous cloud which blanketed the ground, seeping into homes, schools, places of worship , everywhere. It did not even spare the animals. Thousands ran through the streets trying to escape the burning, suffocating chemicals and died on spot. Ripping their clothing off their burning skin, many dropped dead, and others lay dying in pools of their own vomit in the roads and alleyways. The gas was so deadly, that after inhaling the air from the child’s lungs few doctors/inhalers died. There was no Hindu no Muslim no Sikh no isaee.. The last ritual could not be performed properly as lacked identification. Some were buried some were lit fire. The cloth ran out of stock from the market. The numbers were innumerable for the innocent who died. Even the mortuary till date thousands are missing as have no clue about them. Mothers didn’t know their children had died, children didn’t know their mothers had died and men didn’t know their whole families had died. Thousands of dead cats, dogs, cows and birds littered the streets and the city’s mortuaries are filling up fast.
This was not enough the bodied were tortured before dying it affected the eyes- “inflamed eyes about to burst. ., foul breath from the mouths oozing blood streaked froth.. Bodies were tortured even after death due to the pressure from the gases produced by the chemical decomposition of MIC.
By December 1984 the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal India had been cited for safety violations, failure of monitoring systems, leaks of MIC into the community, and an explosion and fatality. Union Carbide was a U.S. owned chemical giant based in Institute, West Virginia. Decisions that allowed the Bhopal plant to fall into disrepair were made in the U. S.Two years prior to the disaster, journalist Rajkumar Keswani published warnings about the MIC storage, that the Union Carbide plant was a sitting on top of a “volcano.” Eager to profit from the Bhopal plant, Institute ignored the warnings, resulting in the worst industrial tragedy in history.
The toxic gas leak had caused a human tragedy of unprecedented proportions: In the following years the death toll from long-term exposure have crossed lakhs and children are born with birth defects, and many millions would fall gravely ill from drinking water contaminated by the massive amounts of chemical waste which is dumped in and around the Carbide factory grounds. The toxic gas altered the immune system of those who were still in their mothers’ wombs.
The waste left behind at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) factory that was closed 25 years ago after a fatal gas leak continues to poison people around that area and Politics is being played at the expense of the victims.\ Real justice has been elusive despite substantial evidence of political corporate cover-ups and criminal negligence.
Safety measures are still not in place in industrial units across the nation. Verbal commitments by the authorities and politicians for lessening the sufferings of Bhopal gas victims still continue. None have learnt lessons from the past. Bhopal gas tragedy is a prime example of how the rich and influential can easily get away despite such gross negligence which not only killed people 25 years ago but has also affected the future generations.
The culprit Warren sits in New York State private estate living a “life of luxury”. He is untraceable, and had been so since 1992 when “Indian court”, exasperated by his refusal to heed multiple summon for trial, declared him a fugitive from justice. Anderson was chairman and chief executive officer of the United States-headquartered Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) at the time of the lethal December 2-3 methyl iso cyanate leaked from Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal and faced charges on many counts, including culpable homicide.
Accused in a December 1, 1987 charge sheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation against him and 11 others, including UCC, USA; Union Carbide (Eastern), Hong Kong; and Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), had been placed under house arrest soon after the disaster but won his release on a promise to return to India to stand trial.
Neither Mr. Anderson nor Carbide turned up in the court for obvious reason. The dubious role played by the world’s most powerful democracy in protecting the key perpetrator of the world’s worst industrial disaster can be seen today the government of the state and the central has shown little interest in getting justice for the people of Bhopal.. Seventeen years after he was proclaimed an “absconder”, Mr. Anderson, now 88, continues to elude the long reach of the law. Bhopal tragedy is a reminder of the unconscionable way justice plays out for the poor in this country. The governments came and left but none was bothered to even forming a commission. The whole world criticized but the administration could not take a decision.
For the $3 billion amount asked the compensation was settled for 15 per cent of the amount which reached in 1989 that too out of the court. The survivors were awarded a lifetime average compensation of Rs.25, 000, far below international compensation standards in 2005; six years later the amount reached the government. The records were distorted by the administration and not taken seriously. The correct compensation as criminal liability was not accepted rather affected due to ineffective role of the administration. No proper case was presented in consideration with eh MP Govt. Medical council report was ignored. It leads to suspicion. The compensation for 1.5 lakh people was distributed to the six lakh. The compensation paid by Union Carbide to the Indian government was laughably low: nowhere near enough to pay for the actual numbers of people affected by the gas spill.
This was not enough; this meager amount reached the awardees after long delays, protracted red tape and bribes paid to lawyers, middlemen and touts. Till date no compensation has been awarded to those born with disabilities and those drinking contaminated water. For those who did manage to obtain compensation, the measly amount quickly ran out in the wake of new or persistent medical complications, hospital bills, and economic problems compounded by disabilities.The biggest failure, according to medical experts, is that the line of treatment given to patients exposed to MIC has remained essentially unchanged since the morning of the disaster, when nothing was known about the poisonous gas.
All medical data has indicated serious genetic mutation but no autopsy studies have been conducted. No government body can explain why the prevalence of cancer among female victims is three time the national average. No research has been done on genetic disorders, low birth weight, congenital malformations, developmental disorders and biological markers of MIC exposure.
In November 1999 protestors , survivor organizations filed a class action suit against UCC and Mr. Anderson in the Southern District Court of New York, charging them with violating international human rights law, environmental law and international criminal law but Federal Judge John F. Keenan was not interested.
In 2001 the UCC was tken in control by The Dow Chemical Company claiming acquiring without LIABILITIES of UCC and refused surrender Carbide for trial. As a result of the sale of its shares in UCIL, Union Carbide retained no interest in - or liability for - the Bhopal site, the firm says in a statement. Its 51% stake in the subsidiary was sold after the accident. Not only this Dow gone on with law suits on protestors who besieged its offices in India, shouting, “Dow, you now have Union Carbide’s blood on your hands”. Dow claimed $10,000 in compensation for alleged loss of work resulting from the demonstrations.
It’s been the CJM’s court in the Bhopal District Court who is the lone flicker of hope for the Bhopal gas survivors. The court has struck blow after blow. From the 1988 letters have been issued to the U.S. administration seeking permission for the CBI to inspect the safety systems at UCC’s West Virginia plan proclaiming Mr. Anderson an absconder in 1992 to persistently seeking information from the CBI on the status of extradition proceedings to quashing the agency’s 2002 attempt to dilute the charge against Mr. Anderson from culpable homicide (punishable with imprisonment up to 10 years) to criminal negligence (punishable with imprisonment up to two years), the District Court is as pro-active as the Indian government was laid back.
The CBI’s 2002 attempt at dilution of charges was of a piece with Mr. Sorabjee’s 2001 advice to the government against seeking Mr. Anderson’s extradition. However, with the Bhopal magistrate standing firm, the CBI was left with no option but to request the Ministry of External Affairs to seek Mr. Anderson’s extradition, which the MEA did, obviously reluctantly, in May 2003.
In July 2004, the U.S. government rejected the Indian request. It stated that the request did not meet the requirements of Article 2(1) and 9 (3) of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and India.
On July 22, 2009, the CJM’s court in Bhopal issued a fresh warrant of arrest against Mr. Anderson, and ordered the CBI to produce him before the court for trial. What do we expect for the 88-year-old “Accused no 1”? to come to India one last time — to stand trial for a crime he committed a quarter of a century ago.
Two generations of victims exposed to MIC have been indiscriminately prescribed antibiotics, steroids and psychotropic drugs to ‘manage’ their ailments instead of finding a cure. till date no research has been done deliberately. The study was terminated in 1994 and its findings were not made public. No research has been conducted since and lakhs of people who continue to suffer from MIC exposure only receive symptomatic treatment. But the ICMR is again planning to conduct a study, and will probably commission it by March 2010.
The need of the hour is taking care of the hazardous waste lying in the acres of land of the closed industry, adequate compensation, hospital care, pension for gas-affected widows and rehabilitation of people with permanent disabilities. Insensitive remarks by politicians, opening the site to create a circus in the contaminated area, holding exhibition and constructing statues will do no good.
I was witness to Mr Jairam ramesh remark in Sept 2009 (minister for Forest and Environment ).Holding up a fistful of mud from the premises, he said, look here, I am not affected. Although later he apologized for this shocking crudity as people like us apposed. None of the reporters reacted as expected although he called and apologized. Today on the 25th anniversary they have been claiming it to be hazardous as Environment organization has proved once gains the poison and toxic element it contains and the world is watching.
And today we stand to witness the criminal not being punished even after 25 years. But for many in Bhopal, for us the disaster isn’t just a moment in history to be remembered on anniversaries. It’s an ever-present part of their daily life. The generations are affected - physically, financially, and emotionally.
The baby’s born on that day were name Zahar lal and Gas Devi who have turned 25 years old.