Tuesday, June 08, 2010

What's Your Verdict?

In December 2009 I had written about the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy that remains till date the worst industrial accident in history. And I was surprised by the number of people who did not remember it at all.

So, things changed. Union Carbide received a face-lift over the years and became Dow Chemicals. Oh yeah, Warren Anderson continues to live the good life in the Hamptons after skipping out on bail from India during the 1980's. Hypocrisy and self-interest and politicking are still very much alive. And U.S. double standards. They're alive and well too. I'm sorry...did I say things have changed? I meant nothing has changed.

Except of course for the verdict? Yes, didn't you hear? All eight Indians accused in the case have been sentenced to two years in prison (yes you read that right too). But this is a lower court verdict so let's not put people in cells right now. Now the case goes onto higher courts.

Twenty-five, almost 26 years later we have this verdict with the main accused still absconding. While through the years people have died agonizing deaths, babies have been born with severe birth defects and none of the poor affected people have received much in terms of true compensation, adequate medical let alone vindication.

But President Obama hopes the verdict brings "closure" to the families. Really, President Obama? What happened to the honest, open, erudite *real* human being I voted for? When did he become a clone? To be honest I kind of expected that...the nature of the presidency and all...but still it hurts.

What else did the U.S. do to commemorate this event?

1. It ruled out the reopening of any new enquiries against Union Carbide (now Dow).

2. It continued to ignore extradition requests for Warren Anderson and refused to even discuss it.

What else?

3. Oh yes, it expressed its hope that this verdict (long enough coming) wouldn't inhibit the political and economic ties between India and the U.S. and that it wouldn't impact the passage of the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill.

You know what's sadder? India too will walk away from the 25,000 dead who died that night and the hundreds of thousands (yes you read that right) of others who have died because of the leak in the almost twenty six years it took to reach this verdict.

Because ultimately what matters is trade and gaining a place among nations of note. In the meantime the Gulf of Mexico continues being over-run with oil. Who will be the losers? The people of the area, the unfortunate living creatures who call the waters and the coast home, and the environment.

Who will escape unscathed? BP and the U.S. Admininstration. But you can bet that if the U.S. tries to charge some BP head honcho he ain't going to be living it up in the Hamptons. Like I said....hypocrisy and double standards are still alive. As is the proven notion that some lives are more precious than others.

These are the things I know to be true. What do you think?


Judy Bussey said...

Interesting that as I read this enlightening piece on the Bhopal disaster, I noted that I haven't seen one single news story commemorating the event--or maybe I missed it. Without this piece, I would forget. Are we all desensitized to human suffering. Unbelievable state of the case.

Jawahara Saidullah said...

Dare I say Judy because it's not sexy enough? Or that it would take away attention from the Gulf oil fiasco. If I was even more cynical I would say that the usual U.S. media fail to report on this because of corporate pressures and because of the less than stellar role America played in this tragedy.

C. said...

Shocking end to this case. I do remember it well, as well as the horror I recall feeling at the memorable Time Magazine cover of the tragedy. I guess 26 years has allowed much of the urgency for vindication to wane. Why the heck has it taken 26 years anyway?

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dipali said...

Such a classic case of justice delayed being justice denied, and too little , too late. This is not the kind of scenario where closure can be achieved:(

uptonatom said...

Thank you Jawahara for the very good article and summary of many things I had missed.
On a much, much smaller scale, I remember being in India shortly after the Kent State killings, and seeing in the papers that students dying in riots seemed like a weekly event, and in America, 4 die and it becomes a #1 song...
Imagine if BP had killed 250,000 people overnight...

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