Bhopal Gas Tragedy verdict: 25 yrs late and still nothing

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Bhopal Gas Tragedy verdict: 25 yrs late and still nothing

Bhopal gas tragedy verdict which came out on Monday after a delay of 25yrs proves yet again the inability of Indian Govt to get its own people justice when a foreign power is concerned.

Deadly gas leaked from the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal in the year 1984. On the night of 2nd and 3rd December, over 500,000 people were exposed to deadly methyl isocyanate gas and other toxins. Over 15000 reportedly died, although Govt figures put them around 3500. The toxins still continue to contaminate the ground waters and pose a health hazard to natives of Bhopal.

Most of the causes behind the ags leak was attributed to human negligence and company’s greed of saving money by not installing proper safety measures. The US arm of the company tried to compensate the affected people by paying $350 million, which eventually got settled at $470 million. The average money given to the families of dead is just about Rs. 12,000. This amount for the price of so many innocent lives is negligible and one would never find out how Indian govt ever agreed to accept this measly compensation.

In a long drawn battle which began between the families affected by the Bhopal Gas tragedy and the Union Carbide’s India arm, cases were filed against the former chairman keshub Mahindra and six other people. Quite bizarre is the fact that the Chairman and CEO of Union Carbide, US, Warren Anderson, was allowed to leave India after the incident. The primary responsibility of the accident must have fallen on his shoulders, but it is widely perceived that the Congress Govt of that time not just allowed him to leave the country, but also gave him a private helicopter for easy escape. Quite naturally, despite several summons and a non-bailable warrant against him since 1992, Warren Anderson never returned back to India and now is totally outside the realms of an Indian trial.

The Union Carbide Plant Tragedy Memorial in Bhopal

Bhopal Gas Tragedy – How to make a mockery of justice:

In any other country, the trial for an accident of such magnitude caused by the greed and negligence of parent company would have been swift. But in India, we generally try first to save the high and the mighty and delay justice to the poor and the needy till the time that the case is completely forgotten. Just about 5 years after the incident, the first attempts were made to close the case for ever. In 1989, all criminal charges were dropped against Carbide officials. It was the huge public outcry which finally forced Supreme Court to re-open the case in 1991. However, another five years later, in 1996, Supreme Court quite cleverly got the charges changed from culpable homicide (which has a max sentence of 10yrs) to death due to negligence (with max sentence of just 2 years).

Now in 2010, the first verdicts have come out. The seven accused, including Mahindra group head and former chairman of UC’s Indian arm, Keshub Mahindra, Vice Chairman Vijay Gokhale and Kishore Kamdar, J Mukund, the Works manager, S P Roy Choudhury, Plant Superintendent, K V Shetty and S I Qureshi the Plant Supervisors, have all been held guilty under bailable sections of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to just 2 years in jail. They were also fined Rs. 1 Lakh each. Quite hilariously, the accused were granted bail immediately after the verdict.

Quite obviously, the 25 years of wait for the families of affected people has resulted in nothing. The accused have been let of almost free and the punishment given to them have been nothing but a hogwash. The affected families now plan to file an appeal against the verdict in High Court, but the way the case has gone so far, one can be assured that nothing severe will ever happen to the accused.

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