Industrial and Environmental Disaster Victims Compensation

June 17, 2010

By Padmini Arhant

There appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the victims of the worst industrial and environmental disaster.

The energy company, BP’s agreement to compensate monetarily with $20 billion over three-year period for the Gulf Coast oil spill impact is a fair beginning.

It’s been set up without a cap and to be monitored by an independent administrator previously appointed to oversee the 9/11 families’ relief fund.

In fact, the urgency lies with the company’s daunting task to stop the gushing oil completely, otherwise ‘plug the hole.’

President Barack Obama’s initiative deserves credit for it enabled BP’s decision.

Now, it’s imperative not to proceed in the direction that has inherent risks with unsustainable loss of life and income to the communities along the coastal regions.

Abandoning offshore drilling in deep and shallow water is the ideal solution to prevent economic and environmental costs.

Some permanent damages to wild and marine life are incomparable for they exceed any likely benefits from oil exploration to attain energy independence, especially when there are absolute clean energy options available through solar, wind, hydropower, bio-fuel etc.

Similarly, the Bhopal victims’ plea for justice in the historic industrial negligence causing several thousand casualties and wreaking havoc in the surroundings with terminal illnesses, birth defects… making life impossible for the impoverished survivors exposed the long buried truth suspected in the failure to implicate the parent company, Union Carbide USA and its then CEO Mr. Warren Anderson.

As stated in the earlier blog post titled “Worst Industrial Catastrophe – Union Carbide / Dow Chemicals and Bhopal Victims of India,” published on June 12, 2010,

The deal between the parent company Union Carbide USA and the Indian government at the federal and state representation confirms the immunity granted to Union Carbide USA including the assurance to the then CEO’s safe departure prior to his arrival in India.

According to the latest reports, the US Envoy to India in 1984, Mr. Gordon Streeb, has come forward and disclosed the details in the agreement between the parent company Union Carbide USA and the Indian government at that time.

The international and Indian journalists, the primary witnesses at the site, corroborated the events leading to the unresolved dispute.

Further, the ex-CEO Mr. Warren Anderson concurred with the key elements in the Bhopal accident settlement during his recent interview.

Per the emerging reports, “the previous Indian government in a sweeping effort to westernize the status quo and transform the ‘socialist,’ economy to ‘capitalism,’ adopted appeasement strategies to lure foreign investments.

In that context, the Bhopal tragedy was an impediment to the measures due to the multinational corporation’s conspicuous mismanagement of the chemical plant.

Subsequently, the transaction materialized at the highest political and corporate level in the backdrop of the greatest industrial calamity.

Again, obstruction of justice through politics and prejudice is not territorial.

It’s an epidemic that has evolved into an unpleasant fact for the innocent deprived of free and fair judicial process.

Nevertheless, the incumbent Indian administration led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seemingly responding with the following appropriate actions:

A new institution called the “EGom,” – Empowered Group of Ministers have been designated with the responsibilities to address the Bhopal victims’ humanitarian needs by imposing a deadline i.e. June 24, 2010 to expedite the much awaited disaster aid.

Source: Indian News Media and the Indian Government Official Data.

Bhopal EGom”s Tall Order:

Work out enhanced compensation package for the survivors of the Bhopal gas explosion.

Provide relief and rehabilitation to the victims.

Determine ways to decontaminate the site not precluding soil and ground water testing to ensure safe living conditions.

Rigorous regulations on industrial mishaps with liabilities directly transferred to the corporations in violation.

Last but not the least, the Government contemplating Mr. Warren Anderson’s extradition request.

The diligence demonstrated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress Party Leader Sonia Gandhi is praiseworthy.

However, the challenge remains in implementing the executive order with none or minimal bureaucracy that often delays the anticipated results.

The victims have endured enormous suffering and any procrastination would exacerbate their plight.

Notwithstanding the government obligations since they are the fund recipient in the Bhopal dispute.

Regarding Mr. Warren Anderson’s extradition – considering the individual’s frail health and age (90+ years), a televised formal apology to the Bhopal victims would be morally and ethically sound, rather than subjecting the elderly defendant to legal proceedings.

Although, the affected citizens’ pain and agony over these years has been excruciating, their forgiveness of those incarcerated in the horrific incident could heal the ordeal experienced by them.

For human spirit is enriched through compassion.

It’s a long journey for the disaster victims in the east and the west, but there is hope with the leaderships on both sides striving hard to end the misery.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant

Worst Industrial Catastrophe – Union Carbide / Dow Chemicals and Bhopal Victims of India

June 12, 2010

By Padmini Arhant

On June 7, 2010, the verdict on the worst industrial gas leak in 1984, Bhopal, India was delivered by the state’s local court.

According to the several reports:

The ruling convicted the seven officials in senior management along with the employees of the former Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), the then subsidiary of the Union Carbide, USA with CEO Warren Anderson at that time.

Conviction included two years jail sentence and Rupees 100,000($2,100, €1,800) in fine.

Understandably, the judgment aroused sentiments among the victims’ devastated families and the survivors.

The NGO’s and other organizations representing the victims welcomed the much awaited process brought to national and international attention after pursuing the legal course for more than twenty five years.

However, they expressed huge disappointment in the limited sentencing and the exemption to the then Parent Company, Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson.

India’s request for the CEO’s extradition to face trial was rejected in June 2004 by the United States.

Mr. Warren Anderson was the CEO of Union Carbide U.S.A during the industrial disaster in 1984 and served the corporation until 1986.

Subsequently, Union Carbide in their statement delineated themselves from the gross industrial negligence that claimed scores of lives and continue to affect more, the living and the yet to be born evidenced in the birth defects as well as other illnesses diagnosed thus far.

Union Carbide U.S.A transferred all liabilities pertaining to Bhopal incident over to its then fully owned subsidiary Union Carbide India Limited, while accepting the revenues and profits from the offshore operation. Effectively reflected in the multinational corporation CEO’s income, stock options and bonuses.

Moreover, the facts supporting the systemic operational facility discrimination between the U.S site and the Bhopal plant was disregarded in the entire proceedings.

Source: titled Warren Anderson (Chairman)

“Greenpeace asserts that as the Union Carbide CEO, Anderson knew about a 1982 safety audit of the Bhopal plant, which identified 30 major hazards and that they were not fixed in Bhopal but were fixed at the company’s identical plant in the US.

Union Carbide asserts that the Bhopal plant addressed all of the identified issues well before the December 1984 gas leak and that none of them had anything to do with the disaster.

Greenpeace claims that neglecting these hazards in Bhopal caused the explosion.

Others, such as the former police chief Swaraj Puri, who was injured in the Bhopal disaster, asserts that Mr. Anderson must have known about the danger of the plant because an employee had died there a year before the disaster.”

Statistics on the human tragedy from this major industrial catastrophe are as follows:

Source: Indian Supreme Court, Madhya Pradesh government, Indian Council of Medical Research

Initial deaths – more than 3,000 – official toll

Unofficial initial toll: 7,000-8,000

Total deaths to date: over 15,000

Number affected: Nearly 600,000

Compensation: Union Carbide pays $470m in 1989

Unfortunately, for the survivors and the victims’ families, the issue is not restricted to the selective indictment or the mild sentencing on a monumental management failure;

It’s rather an uphill battle to investigate the matter because of the high profile corporate and political power implicated in the horrific crime, especially with more information presented through visual content in the Indian media that confirms,

The “most wanted” CEO, Warren Anderson escorted in an Indian state government vehicle for safe departure from the Indian shores upon being released on bail after his arrest in December 7, 1984.

Mr. Anderson noted as the “chief defendant” in the trial from the beginning was excluded in the recent hearing outcome.


Later, “the arrest warrant issued on July 31, 2009 by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Prakash Mohan Tiwari, Bhopal, India rendered ineffective due to the U.S. declining the extradition treaty, citing a lack of evidence.”

It bears resemblance to the 9/11 tragedy when the terror mastermind, Osama Bin Laden’s family were reportedly allowed secure passage from the United States in 2001.

The dangers of politics and prejudice playing dominant role in the judicial system, often deprives the innocent from obtaining justice even in the democratic society.

Such obstruction of justice through political influence and camouflage from the top bottom makes a mockery of the judicial system in a democracy.

It’s increasingly prevalent in the trials that could potentially expose the authorities in bad light.

No political system is an exception to the concept.

Besides, the news corps media being the primary voice for democracy have a journalistic responsibility to decipher the intricacies behind the funds exchange between Union Carbide USA and the Indian government that received the disclosed $470 million compensation with or without any stipulation.

Although, the monetary compensation is not proportionate to the suffering and damages sustained by the victims,

It’s still important to ascertain the amount actually received (if any) by the affected individuals in the prolonged dispute and address the status quo adequately.

Setting the political priorities aside, the dire situation beckons the Indian and the U.S. entities to view the Bhopal victims’ plight as a humanitarian calamity and exemplify requiring transnational corporations to adhere to universal environmental and ethical standards in the globalization era.

Justice denied to the innocent is Justice betrayed. For actions and decisions by all are judged accordingly.

Bhopal victims deserve better considering the long ordeal endured by them.

Providing medical assistance, toxin free living conditions with continuous monitoring to eliminate the persisting health hazards are the minimal needs for survival.

Enforcing strict industrial safety codes and regulations would protect workers from serious occupational injuries.

In addition, imposing liability on the corporations regardless of statehood for human and environmental harm is necessary to prevent negligence and evading financial obligation.

Whether it is Bhopal, India or the Gulf Coast in the United States, the communities pay the price in the deadly chemical release and oil gusher.

Perhaps, the bilateral solution to the problem rests with the Indian and U.S authorities to do right by shifting the burden of proof from the victims to those connected to the horrendous casualty in the Bhopal gas explosion.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant

Earth Day

April 23, 2009

The global community has an opportunity to reflect and redeem the loss of earth’s treasure in rare species, fresh air layered with cool breeze, the scent of sweet smelling flowers and pure drinking water once naturally available on the planet and now a scarcity in the congested urbanized world.

On this important day commemorating the urgency to sustain life on earth collectively, it is obligatory on every nation to utilize the human capital with expertise, technology and other resources to reduce and eventually eliminate environmental pollution. There are debates and discussions held to determine the extent of responsibility nations must accept to benefit mankind.

Although the earth’s space demarcated with territories and boundaries, disaster in one part of the world affects humanity multifold particularly through disease in the form of epidemics. Further, depletion of local natural resources impact global economy contributing to trade disputes aside from escalating regional poverty that ultimately leads to war and destruction.

The concept of green technology and promoting eco-friendly environment deserve A-political focus to maximize humanitarian values shared by all inhabitants on the planet. It is incumbent on the corporations of the industrialized nations evidently profit motivated to limit and possibly terminate environmental contamination caused by hazardous chemicals, poisonous gases and other toxic agents in the impoverished and densely populated regions of the world.

Unfortunately, the increasing co-operation by the political systems both local and foreign governments with the corporations in violation of environmental code, safety regulations and ethics proliferate catastrophes. Recently, it has immunized victims in tolerating mass life extinction practices witnessed in the 1984 Union Carbide human tragedy in Bhopal, India. Again, notwithstanding the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in the former Ukranian Soviet Socialist Republic producing horrendous figures in deaths, terminal illnesses and birth defects up until now. Similarly, the numerous oil spillings along various coastal regions are responsible for enormous damage and loss to aquatic life, local population and their economy.

Meanwhile, the developing and under developed nations receiving international aid must invest in efficient waste management, facilitate clean drinking water and sanitary conditions for decent survival of those at the bottom of the socio economic strata. Their social programs must target the rural and poorest groups in the society to provide basic education, health care and means for improving living standards through agriculture, banking, and small and large-scale industry expansion. It is essential for nations’ with highest population to maintain sustainable growth to achieve economic prosperity and desirable environmental goals.

Despite phenomenal loss of life and precious resources, there is a universal failure to acknowledge the calamities from nuclear reactors/waste, fossil fuel, offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, disproportionate carbon emissions including reckless industrial pollutions in the past and present time. If the trend continues with little or no effort to contain environmental deterioration, the prospects of future life appear diminished.

Earth day is a subtle reminder to cherish the beautiful gift from Mother Nature and the best expression of gratitude would be the preservation and protection of the planet, the habitat for all living species.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant