Bhopal Gas Tragedy : The great sell out by the government of India.

25 years after the greatest industrial accident in the world. 25 years after over 25,000 perished in an agonizing death on the terrible night when the deadly gas leaked out of the Union Carbide chemical factory in Bhopal, India. Or in slow tortureous deaths in the few weeks following that night as people saw their loved ones wither away with little medical help. And as the city of Bhopal began to look like a huge mortuary.

And 25 years later after the hundreds of thousands that were affected by the gas have mostly perished to it’s long term effects, the court finally delivered their judgement today.

It’s a completely irrelavant judgement. For those on whose shoulders lie the responsibility of this avoidable, irresponsible, completely mismanaged accident, have long since made their deals with the government of India and gone. It was one of the greatest and most brutal sellout by the government of India and it’s courts of the people of India.

Union Carbide (a US corporation) that sold an outdated and unsafe technology to it’s Indian co, did a $ 470 million pay out to the Government of India and completely absolved itself of all responsibility, blaming local mishandling. Their CEO, Warren Anderson was spirited out of India, aided and abetted by the Government, within a few days of the accident – never to return despite summons by the courts. Had this accident occurred in the US and be bound by US laws even 25 years ago, the legal compensation would have wiped out the market value of Union Carbide and many Insurance Co’s with it. It would have run into 10’s (if not 100’s) of billions of dollars. And the compensation would have continued today as the people of Bhopal continue to suffer from the thousands of cases of cancer and incurable birth defects in children born to the parents of the people that inhaled the gas on the terrible night. And as toxic waste continues to seep into and through the ground water 25 years later.

But who cared about the poor people of Bhopal ? Certainly not our own Government who like cannibals preyed upon their own people. Apparently very little of the paltry $ 470 million that was paid went to helping the people that suffered, a large part being diverted to the pockets of corrupt officials. The excuse used was that you could not tell who was a victim of the gas tragedy and who was not. As if.

25 years later, are we making the same mistakes ? The law is supposed to be a deterrent to crimes being committed again. This judgement just proves that you could do anything in India and get away with it. Even kill thousands and thousands of people.

If there are people who read this blog and would like to share personal experiences in Bhopal on that tragic day, I will happily publish them, just so we do not forget, nor forgive.

42 thoughts on “Bhopal Gas Tragedy : The great sell out by the government of India.

  1. I was born in 1986.. so not sure wat happened in the past.. yeah, but from wat im hearing.. im feeling bad abt the decision of this Govt.

  2. Agree with every word you’ve said here.
    As you said… I think we’re making the same mistakes.We shouldn’t have let some corporation get away with it. The people have changed but not the thought process.

    Take care

  3. This was no justice, CBI framed a weak case with the help of corrupt segment of Judiciary. A lower court took 26 years to deliver the most the our inadequate and lame laws could provide. Surely another 10-15 years of judicial delay are in store for the tamasha to carry on in the other courts, High Court, Supreme Court.

    1 of the eight people convicted has already died his natural death and the others including MAHINDRA’S group chairman Keshub Mahindra would die their natural death too, without spending any more day in prison.

    We were always shown the Warren Anderson angle and allowed Keshub Mahindra to go scott-free. Do you know how many awards this Mr. Keshub Mahindra got post-Bhopal.

    • 1987 Chevalier De La Legion D’honneur
    • 1985 Companion – British Institute of Management
    • 1989 Business India – Businessman of the Year, India
    • 1990 Honorary Fellowship of All India Management Association
    • 1992 Rotary Award for Vocational Excellence
    • 1992 Shiromani Award
    • 1993 Vikas Jyoti Award for Outstanding Services, Contribution & Achievements
    • 1994 FIE Foundation – Rashtra Bhushan Award
    • 1994 The Sir Jehangir Ghandy Medal for Industrial Peace – XLRI, Jamshedpur
    • 1996 Rotary Vocational Excellence Award in the field of Industry
    • 1998 IMC Diamond Jubilee Endowment Trust Award
    • 2000 Motorindia Automan Award
    • 2000 Dadabhai Naoroji International Award for Excellence & Lifetime Achievement
    • 2003 All India Management Association Lifetime Achievement Award for Management
    • 2004 Award from Overdrive for Excellence in the Indian Automotive Hall of Pride
    • 2004 Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Corporate Governance
    • 2005 Qimpro Platinum Standard – Statesman for Quality – Business Award
    • 2006 Lakshya Business Visionary Award – NITIE
    • 2007 Indian Business School (IBS) Kolkata Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI).
    • 2007 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.
    • 2008 Society of Indian Automobile Manifacturers (SIAM) Award for ‘Lifetime Contribution to the Automotive Industry’.

    Who has steel in spine to put such a rich man behind bars (Not counting you & me)?

  4. I am a budding lawyer. Like judiciary lacks judiciousness, the legislature (govt) lacks to define legislative intent. We are a country of 100 billion. If we want we can/could have created any international diplomatic pressure required in order to secure the presence of CEO of Union Carbide.
    I feel Polticians with the handicapped judiciary have successfully proved to be champions of laughter challenge. we have to check it doesn’t repeat. We do not need old minds with new program, instead we need new minds with no program at all. I think it’s the biggest mockery we could have made of delivering justice to the aggreived people. Let me take a chance to challenege the govt of any time since independence to point out; not a single commission report has been considered. Not a politican convicted. And 1 judge impeached. In agony I say this is what is the result when fear of god and of law both are absent.
    My sincere apologies to all the people who are suffering that I could not be of any help to you.

  5. I am ashamed to call myself an Indian today, our country and the people who run it behave like hungry vultures (Vultures are benovelent creatures, they scavange to live and survive, the Indian polity, bureaucracy and to some bad apple judicaial officers make money and thrive on dead body of fellow citizens). At times I wonder if we as a nation have become so numb to injustices all around us we sieze to behave like dignified human beings and start surviving like lower beings. Where is the collective conscience of our society. With the things going around in the world, I think we need to hit rock bottom as a race before a renaissance would start.
    With the nuclear liability bill up for approval in parliament next session. Our politicians would sell our lives cheap to multinational energy conglamorates. And this time I am sure its going to be even cheaper than before. Dirt Cheap !!
    Kind Regards,

  6. what would you expect from headless chicken govt., frankly I didn’t surprise to hear this.I would expect Shekhar you should make a script that inspire young people to come and rule India, not bunch of headless chicken. My heart goes to all people who suffered and suffering this tragic pain.

  7. Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily says “We need to learn lesson from this” This bas…. would not have told this if one of the victims was his son or daughter. We say this everytime when something goes wrong and fool people. Do we require 25 yrs to learn a lesson and change the law?

    We the people are responsible for this. We elect the government which we deserve!

  8. Who has steel in spine to put such a rich man behind bars (Not counting you & me)?>> right Shuvankar

  9. The total compensation so far paid to Bhopal Victims is just $470Million and this pathetic govt is now saying that Lord Forbid if Chernobyl or 3-Mile Island were to happen in India, the Non-Indian Entity’s liability would be just $100Million…lower than even Bhopal victims……:(.

    Beats me how stupid the GOI can be

  10. Hi,
    Good 2 see someone taking initiative cause this is the only medium that connects with freedom and lets one speak openly. Reading the posts i feel its not about if i was born then or i heard somewhere or we blame the govt or the system that takes away the compensation meant for victims of any tragedy or we elect the wrong people.
    Its about us , our hunger for money and power whether at the grass root level or at the highest post available. We as humans have become self centered creatures and please dont compare us with dogs and vultures or crows because even they eat and hunt toghether whereas we do it for ourselves only.
    What we actually lack as HUMANS is HUMANITY because of our self centredness.
    And the worst part is this thing has spread like GANGERENE in our SYSTEM ( MIND BODY and SOUL ).
    We have actually become Non Reacting Indians whether here or abroad.
    Its very easy to feel or react verbally, than to take an initiative maybe because we are more surrounded with our own problems , routine , responsibilities , family , survival , blah… blah… blah… its never ending.
    After me writing this or anyone reading this we may just think for a while …” yes something should be done … but HOW…? ” and then shut the pc down and leave for our daily PROBLEMS or CLOSE this box and continue with something else.
    Something should be DONE …..
    Something should be DONE ….. WHAT …?
    Please give ur Sugesstions on this blog .. im not promoting shekhar kapoor, but use this medium to CONNECT and please bring some change TOGHETHER.
    It can be anything … right from some one eveteasing out there or someone getting into the dirtiest of crimes. They all fall in the same Category.
    Just feel how would it be if you are Teased in the middle of the road no one to come forward… or being MOLESTED by a group of peaple without HELP… as HUMANS we will enjoylistening but its INHUMAN.
    Dont look around for another tragedy.

  11. Agreed that it was a sell out by Indian govt. but what the Indian Govt. and People have done for these victims? It is the case of child being hurt by an outsider but family, the mother not providing comfort to the child. Bhopal Gas tragedy like others are given only lip service when their turn comes and then forgotten. Govt. could have pumped money to develop medication for diseases arising out of this tragedy, build a memorial, give compensation from their own pocket if not monetarily but by building houses, schools and hospitals. I think these things would not require all the money from UC. Just take care of a generation of people and they will be up on their feet.

  12. For all those who don’t wish to sell their souls or have it treaded upon, and all those who’d like to ACT

  13. There is a oil spill by BP on Louisiana coast in USA which claimed around 10 lives. We shall see what criminal charges US gov will post on BP for this. Currently US gov is trying to find out on what ass they can put charges. Let Bhopal Gas case do not die down. After a month or two, lets compare the bhopal gas case with BP oil spill case.

    Also I pray God to give conscience to Indian politician. Nuclear liability bill is the big test for them to show the world that whether they have learnt any lesson from Bhopal Gas tragedy or not.

    Last, but not the least, I am deeply engraved with the court decision and assume this a mockery to Indian people in general, and bhopal in specific.

  14. Hello sir, am a hotel management guy..most of time am roaming the world here and there.This bhopal gas tragedy yesterday 2 germans was discussing in my hotel where am working,and they asked me how the government can take such decision? I was blind..i am in F & B service..interaction with guest is more here..they were asking me so many questions and at some point i was blank. We are still developing country,not developed.this is the biggest tragedy and answer to all question which our political leaders give,and here those ppl are quite unhappy about hamburg,population is not more then mumbai i guess.but everything is in perfection,why we are lagging behind sir?youth is responsible??or our leaders?please reply

  15. Certainly, people will loose faith in the judicial system of India with this verdict.

  16. da bitter truth of indian law foundation loopholes are again in lime light…. our liberlisation policy is so strong that v allow anyone to come to us ,,, earn from us ,, and hit back us… atleast da company policy were safer during british periods as that tym avaliable facilities…

  17. hi,
    The excuse used was that you could not tell who was a victim of the gas tragedy and who was not. As if.
    Unquote, last statement, third last paragraph of this blog…mostly the concerned person who put this as stance and who foolishly not only listened but accepted this fact, must be asked and told that what if, if the same scnerio be re-produced with their closer and dear ones..I thought of this because like these people(union carbide people) want to help the victims, we also want to help the victim..yes, but it is really difficult like these people(union carbide) says…so lets repeat the scnerio with your(criminals from union carbide) closer and dear ones so these (criminals from union carbide) will have abosolute data along with medical examination, certifications that a comparative analysis can be done.. it will be more helpful for the advocates also who fight for these inocent business men(i.e. in our common man words the criminals from union carbide) of the and I think the judiciary should also think of sending their closers to participate along with closer and dear ones of union carbide that they will be able to give a neutal justice to beggers like us (yes we free independednt Indians are beggers when we approch to judiciary..and they are laughable it is we are beggers in our own country, we have to beg for justice )

    tell me one thing if bhopal incident was just an incident (not even an accident) then how these people are different than Hitler

    these people forget that there is one more universal and unique power above do your own business that power will do what is most appropriate and correct…people usually say that there is delay but not injustice in almighty’s door..but I will dare to say..neither there is delay..nor injustice..only truth..

    my 2 cents


    Bhopal verdict: a most convenient injustice

    A tiny penalty for each life lost underlines the absence of balance between economic and political power in the Bhopal trial

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    * tim
    o Tim Edwards
    o, Tuesday 8 June 2010 18.08 BST
    o Article history

    The Union Carbide plant in Bhopal The Union Carbide plant in Bhopal. Photograph: Harish Tyagi/EPA

    Nestled among the 1,500 articles universally decrying the mockery of justice served up in a Bhopal court yesterday were one or two curiosities. Notably, Robert Blake, regional assistant secretary of the corporate-crime-busting Obama administration, expressed the hope that “this verdict helps to bring some closure to the victims and their families”.

    For who indeed could fail to gain reconciliation from a judgment that gavelled a punitive sanction of pennies for each life taken by the worst corporate massacre in history?

    Outside the court, gas survivor Hamida Bi stood weeping. “Nobody knows how we suffered experiencing death so closely everyday … the rich and influential have wronged us. We lost our lives and they can’t spend a day in jail?”

    Not one. Stringent appeal of the two-year sentences will be conducted on bail.

    There’s little doubt the seven managers and officials of Union Carbide India (UCIL) sentenced understood the technology imported by Union Carbide Corporation to be exceptionally, screamingly hazardous. Yet operatives were put in key positions of responsibility, safety devices were put out-of-commission and workers who tried to prevent Armageddon were unheard.

    Increasing business losses at the time were, naturally, of most concern to UCIL’s main shareholder, then US Fortune 500 company Carbide, which ensured the constant flow of dividends and royalties from across its multinational empire by “securing and maintaining effective control” of its subsidiaries. The board of UCIL thus contained four directors of Union Carbide Eastern (UCE) – a regional management subsidiary owned by Union Carbide – and James Rehfield, a Carbide executive.

    Under oath, Rehfield vigorously denied that Carbide sought to levy control over its overseas operations. When asked who, then, controlled an “affiliate”, Rehfield replied: “The board of that company.” Who is the board elected by? “The equity participants.” And who’s the majority equity participant in UCIL? “Carbide’s 50.9%.” This 0.9 of 1% over 50 was so vital to Union Carbide’s control strategy that an executive committee – including the fugitive prime accused Warren Anderson – ratified a plan to install unproven technology in the Bhopal plant.

    The logic was simple. Carbide was “not prepared to accept any situation” that would reduce its equity below 51%. An “under-investment” totalling $8m, which made its main savings on the potentially lethal methyl-isocyanate-Sevin process, enabled Carbide to keep its majority stake in UCIL. Carbide found the proposed business risk “acceptable”.

    The cuts were savage. Key safety device the Vent Gas Scrubber wasn’t working the night Tank 610 spewed 28 tonnes of methyl isocyanate gas into the lungs of Bhopal’s sleeping half million: it would have made no difference if it had been. The gas poured through it at 200 times the pressure it was designed to handle – a water pistol for an inferno.

    In the 23 years since the Bhopal criminal trial began, prime accused Carbide, UCE and Warren Anderson have resisted numerous summonses and escaped both bailable and non-bailable arrest warrants. Interpol has failed to procure them. No US administration has offered them up.

    In 1991, current prime minister Manmohan Singh began liberalising the Indian economy, stimulating bilateral trade with the US. By 1992, judicial orders made Carbide and Anderson “fugitives from justice” and demanded their extradition. Nothing happened.

    In 2003, after a series of embarrassing rebukes, pusillanimous India finally summoned the pluck to ask the US to extradite Anderson. According to US state department communications the request sent lobbyists into a frenzy. “A virtual who’s who of high-powered law firms have represented Union Carbide and Anderson, the US chamber of commerce, and who knows who else with respect to the Bhopal case.”

    Former Carbide director Joseph Goeghan got to the point. “Extradition in (a) case like this would place in jeopardy any officer of an American corporation with significant interests in foreign enterprises anywhere in the world … The chilling effect on American investment abroad cannot be overstated.”

    The extradition request was denied and has not been resent.

    In 2001, $50bn Dow Chemical became full owner of Carbide. At the urging of survivor groups, the Bhopal court issued summons to Dow to account for its missing subsidiary. In five years, the judicially ordered summons has yet to reach Dow’s offices in Michigan.

    The culpable homicide case against Union Carbide continues but, as a breezy Robert Blake added yesterday, “I don’t expect this verdict to reopen any new inquiries or anything like that.” Given the asymmetries of economic and political power so clearly in play, the verdict against UCIL really begins to seem a most convenient injustice.

  19. Dear Shekhar,

    This time , your Heart is in the right place ! It is infuriating when people of India , forgetting their own genius subscribe to a Western Model of ‘Development’ – as if !

    Economic , Material Development imperatives mean that poor countries like India were easy targets – all the Western Companies had to do was bribe a few officials and they were in.

    How can a Cow- Killing Civilization value Motherhood ? Earth – Bhu Devi is a living being and some Devils , posing as her children are hell bent on exploiting her.

    This will not , cannot go on.

    The solution is a Re-Establighment of Vedic Civilization in India – this is the highest Dharma for all Indians – this at once balances Human Purpose with Real Development – which is Spiritual Development .

    Imagine how Resource sharing and Demand-Supply Dynamics will change when ‘Spiritual Values’ of sharing and need based asset management , coupled with Use of Technology to create Abundance can solve all problems on this sad planet !!

    Let Union Carbide episode remind everyone that there is no Alternative to the Vedic Civilization’s vision of not just co-existing with nature , but actually worshipping it with reverence.

    Om Tat Sat !

  20. Indian pseudos will always be west-worshipping slaves, like beggars lapping up the synthetic glamour of maya. India needs to be taken into Sanyas yog for some self-reflection. Cut off all export-import of goods and culture, deal with corruption, recede back into the vedic ways for a heavy dose of social re-engineering.
    But first, throw out the UPA and dalit parties.

  21. Please don’t be feel shame…
    We are Indians and we will always be an Indian….
    No matter our government is corrupted or our system is dirty…
    Lets take a oath that we the youth of this country will change our self…our thinking..our attitude..and our people…and our system in near future….
    We don’t want such a stupid illiterate politicians who hardly know anything about human rights….
    What is the Meaning of our country….
    I wish Mr. Shekhar Kapur will join some political party..and take initiative..we r with u…
    One day we will change this country for sure…

  22. Lets leave the semantics to the politicians and the details to the lawyers.If we look deep into our hearts we all collectively knew this would happen from the day of the incident.Because that is what it was to the company.A boost in business to its competitors and a fantastic money making opportunity for the “authorities”(politicians/cops/bereaucrats). It was a tragedy – only for the people who suffered.

  23. Though it was a great tradegy but its also a great plot for a movie to highlight the incompetence of the Govt and the Judiciary in India why has it taken so long to give Justice and is it really Justice, I don’t think so.

  24. The Gandhi family (the pseudo gandhis) will destroy India..look at that shameless Sonia Gandhi trying to force her imbecile, buffoon of a son into the PM seat. You vote for UPA, you are voting for India’s demise.

  25. If you are at all concerned with the ongoing Bhopal disaster, you would not be sitting with representatives of Dow Chemical (which bought Union Carbide but refuses to own its liabilities) and supporting the Dow Live Earth Run for Water – a vulgar display of corporate environmentalism.

    As the board member of Global Water Challenge, you should know that many of these Dow Live Earth Runs were protested by Bhopal campaigns groups and the one in London was even cancelled because the organizers feared there would be more protesters supporting Bhopal victims than runners. It is also ironic that you are making a film on water problems but sharing a position on the same board with Coca-Cola. Am I blind or is it you that cannot see the hypocrisy in all this?


  26. Justice for Bhopal Victims?
    Indians are not even ready to Boycott “Eveready” Batteries, a product of Union Carbide.
    A popular film personality even shouts “Give me Blood” for advertisement.
    Alas the poor of Bhopal

  27. dear AR – i am aware of Dow’s support of Earth run for Water, but I was not part of it. My sitting on the board of the Global Water challenge has in no way stopped me from expressing my views openly on the responsibility of both the Government of India and Union Carbide/Dow Jones on Bhopal publicly on this blog, on twitter, or on debates on national TV. I have done so similarly against Coca Cola’s fight against the farmers of Kerala previously. The GWC supports a lot of water charities around the world and I support them too. Also when you disagree with the actions of someone you can either oppose them, or negotiate with them to convince them they are wrong. In this world it is important to both fight for what you believe in and to engage in dialogue to convince others that they are wrong.

  28. Democracy makes people powerless. Don’t think otherwise. A tragedy of epic proportions -Bhopal- from injustice to govt apathy to people like us not able to do much! Some of write and give vent to feelings some of us discuss and debate but action wise-not much has been meted out as justice to the people of Bhopal.

    We the people never get any answers from the govt ever! This govt or any other govt! That is why I say democracy makes us powerless!

    @brahmastra you say don’t vote to the pseudo Gandhi’s. Sure-like we have a gazillion choices right?

  29. Yes, the government has taken a really bad decision.But after all, it is the Indian Government, you can’t expect them to do anything!!

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