Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bhopal Gas Tragedy was not a “Disaster of Neglect”

I am not a political researcher or a scientist to be aware of the facts, however I do understand when the real information is not presented to us to camouflage the Government’s own hand in the disaster.

The Congress government was in full swing in 1984. Only if you analyze some basic facts would we understand why the UPA Government opposed the plea. First of all who granted the permission to UCIL to have a pesticide factory in midst of a population of over 120,000 and to produce and store one of the deadliest chemicals MIC. In all other countries the permissible exposure level is 0.02 parts per million. They were well aware that the plant was not designed to handle the runaway reaction. The MIC in the tank while it was flowing through the scrubber was 87% against permissible limit of 50%, it was well over 100 times its designed capacity.

Although the cooling system was shut down months before the disaster as part of UCC’s global economic drive the storage was still maintained in the factory. MIC needs to be stored under refrigeration while it wasn’t. The tank was defective; the flair tower to burn off the emissions was under repair. To top it all the work force was brought to half over a period of four years resulting in serious service lack and maintenance. Finally on the night of December 2nd ,1984, a large quantity of water gushed in the storage tank containing over 40 tons of MIC resulting in a chemical reaction and increasing the pressure in the tank when it leaked out.

Now there is news floating of Anderson last words as he fled India that he was free to go home as there is a law of United States. What has Congress to say now? Even if Waren Anderson had pleaded to the government of thorough investigation and that this kind of disaster would never happen, the worst industrial disaster was already in books. Calling it a “Systemic Failure” would not appease the citizens any more. Some officials are now taking the diplomatic approach to involves United States Government, Dow Chemicals and settle this matter. This is not going to help. In 1989 finally when the SC directed a final settlement within 10 days Union Carbide had turned $470 million to Indian Government. Then again in 1990 after a year of proceedings SC decided to overturn the settlement. The court directed the government to purchase group of medical policies of over 100,000 who may have later symptoms and to make up any shortfall of funds. The court request UCC and UCIL to fund capital and operational cost of a hospital for next 8 years, which was out of settlement fund thus dismissing all other appeals to review the settlement. UCC and UCIL accepted and agreed to fund the capital. In order to set up trust fund finally UCC sold 50.9% state to Mcleod Russell in 1994 and completed initial funding of around $20 million. In 2004 SC ordered to release the remaining settlement fund to the victims estimated of $327 million resulting from earned interests post all settlement claims. In 2005 the estimate was $390 million. Meantime since US Court of Appeals affirmed transfer for litigation in India back in 1987 all appeals made to them would uphold dismissal(in 2006 the court dismissed 2 appeals in Janki Bai Sahu case which is still to be affirmed by US Federal District Court in New York).

Mr Manoj Tiwari’s diplomatic denial would not help to construe the failure due to neglect to the masses. Justice is still awaited. The settlement funds have not yet been released. On what basis the UPA government say it is based on assumptions, surmises and conjecture? They went far saying several claims were false and vexatious under death and injury category. Have they verified each and every record before making the statement? Can the Government produce the details of every penny be sent to the rightful plaintiffs in concern? The worse is yet Supreme Courts dismissal and agreeing to the Center.

There could be additional factors, it could be a framework to mislead the court and aid in minimizing Union Carbide’s financial liability to compensation. This is only aggravating the anger in public and if Anderson was here the common public would lynch him . Hence it is not only him but the Government who needs to come with an answer to public of the whereabouts of the funds and it is utilization for the cause whose magnitude still aghast.

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