Volume 6, No. 1, January 2005


Bhopal Holocaust’s 20th Anniversary:

Corporate Terrorism & Genocidal Imperialism



Around midnight a full two decades back, on Dec 3, 1984, 27 tonnes of the highly poisonous gas, methyl isocyanate (MIC), leaked from the Union Carbide (UCC) pesticide plant at Bhopal. Located near the railway station in the heart of the city, within minutes the entire people at the station and in the neighbouring slums lay dead. A holocaust of unbelievable proportions was about to unfold. Within 48 hours 20,000 were dead. According to the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) another 2,50,000 people (over 30% of the population of Bhopal — the capital of MP) continue to suffer from permanent disabilities and chronic ailments as a result of the exposure to the gas. In addition due to chromosomal and genetic damage among the victims the next three to four generations of children in Bhopal will suffer from birth defects and spontaneous abortions. With such a massacre the attack on WTC and Pentagon pales into insignificance. Yet, till date no action has been taken on the culprits and even a pittance has been paid in compensation. The Indian and US governments have been collaborating over the years to absolve the guilty. Worse still, till today the plant has not yet been cleaned up and continues to pollute the environment as the cost of such a clean-up would be around $500 million. Till today the land, ground water and even the milk is polluted. A 1999 Greenpeace report found severe contamination of the factory site, surrounding land and groundwater. Drinking water wells near the factory were heavily polluted with chemicals known to produce cancers and genetic defects. In a study lead, mercury and organo-chlorines were found in the breast milk of nursing mothers in the affected areas.

The tragedy lives on. The people suffer while UCC continues to thrive under its new owner Dow Chemicals. UCC’s Eveready Batteries are still the craze throughout the world reaping massive profits for the owner. They refuse to even pay compensation except for the pitiable amount ordered by the Supreme Court. And even this is sought to be snatched away by the Indian vultures who rule at both Delhi and Bhopal. In 1991, a full seven years after the tragedy, the Supreme Court ordered the payment of a pitiable $470 million to discharge all claims of compensation against the UCC — a small fraction of the $3 billion claimed. Most claimants got barely $400 each — just over Rs.7,000 at the exchange rates then existing. But, the Supreme Court also ordered that criminal proceedings be taken against those responsible. Yet ,the UCC and its chief, the demon, Warren Anderson, flatly and publicly refused to appear before an Indian court. And successive governments and the CBI did nothing to get the criminals to India. Also the criminal cases against Indian officials have dragged on for years and judges presiding over the case have been repeatedly transferred.

The facts behind the case are now publicly known where the UCC utilized an untested procedure to produce the pesticide Sevin in order to cut costs and reap huge profits. The UCC has been operating in the country from 1966, but the unit manufacturing MIC began to function only in Feb. 1980. The 1970 project proposal reveals that UCC had realized that the technology to be adopted at the Bhopal plant was not a proven one, and yet it opted to take the risk in view of the large profit margins. Utilization of proven technology would have been far more costly. The MIC-to-sevin process, as developed by the UCC, had only a limited trial run. In addition to this when it was known that MIC was a highly volatile substance and had to be stored at zero degrees centigrade, the refrigeration system had been shut off from June 1984 to save costs of the Freon gas. Sevin production at the plant had stopped in Oct. 1984 following huge accumulation of stocks. According to their own finding, on the day the gas leaked the temperature of the tank from which gas leaked was at 15-20 degrees centigrade instead of the requirement of 0 degrees. The lower temperature would have retarded the reaction considerably and given time for corrective action.

All this goes to show the criminal intent of the UCC to dump dangerous pesticides in our country, ignoring all safety concerns in order to maximize profits. The Indian rulers were total collaborators in this nefarious project turning a blind eye to all the omissions. Not only that, after the holocaust they have exerted maximum effort to protect the guilty. In fact last year when activists from abroad tried to clean up the contaminated site they faced eviction and arrest by the police of the Digvijay Singh Congress government. But this is not all:

The CBI failed to submit the huge amounts of available evidence proving UCC’s guilt. It even opposed the survivors’ plea to visit the UCC’s head-quarters; a visit which would have exposed the UCC’s double standards in safety measures practiced in the USA and in India. One excuse for being unable to enforce criminal procedures was that the UCC no longer had any concerns or assets in India.

The present BJP-led NDA government’s strategy has shifted, shockingly; from mere disinterest and apathy to deliberate, aggressive defence of the guilty! In 2001, UCC merged with Dow Chemicals, which, therefore, now bore all the responsibilities of the UCC. Dow has four subsidiaries and many assets in India. Did the NDA government seize them? Did it tell Dow to produce Anderson and the other killers, or else quit India? Far from it, it readily succumbed to pressure from Dow, and the CBI has moved to dilute charges against Anderson et al from culpable ‘homicide’ to mere ‘negligence’!

Even more shocking has been the NDA government’s move to snatch away and misutilise the victims’ compensation. The compensation given by UCC was a mere l/7 of that demanded by the government. Even the whole of that meager amount has not reached the victims. The amounts of compensation given have been even lower than the standards set by the Indian railways! In addition the Bhopal Hospital Trust at Bhanpura, supposedly built for the gas victims, was steeped in corruption and irregularities.

After the paltry payments, Rs. 1360 crore of compensation fund remains on balance. A Group of Ministers appointed by the NDA government has decided to distribute this amount among 20 non-gas affected wards!

The children born in 1984 will now be 20 years, many of whom will be living lives with defects, deformities and other health problems. A whole city has been incapacitated for decades just due to the avarice of greedy imperialist demons and their Indian collaborators. How can the affected achieve justice? How can the guilty be really punished? All the lobbying and social activism of the host of NGOs operating there has given little relief to the affected. What is requires is a mass upsurge against all the Dow factories in the country whose wealth is confiscated by the masses and handed over to the affected. The call must be to kick all Dow units out of the country and hang the criminals responsible. Also proletarian internationalism will call for the American people to punish Warren Anderson and other criminals of the UCC in the US itself.




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