26 years of Bhopal Gas Tragedy – LOKAYAT organized a protest rally

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Bhopal 26 Years Later – Search for Justice Continues

Lokayat organizes Rally against outrageous Bhopal gas tragedy case judgement On Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Time: 6.30 pm to 8 pm

Route: From Corporation Bus Stand via Shivaji Road to Tilak Putla, Mahatma Phule Mandai

Lokayat is organizing a rally against the outrageous judgement delivered in the Bhopal gas tragedy case on June 7, 2010, in which all the Indian officials have got away with mild sentences. The accused have got away so lightly, because of the “criminal negligence” by the government in prosecuting those responsible for the world’s worst industrial disaster. The Supreme Court in 1996, in a horrible judgement, diluted the charges against the Indian accused, effectively converting the Bhopal disaster to the equivalent of a traffic accident, and the CBI made no attempt to challenge this legally unsound judgement. It also made glaring omissions in presenting the evidence against the Indian accused. The worst part is, for the last 18 years, the CBI has made no attempt to bring the prime accused – Union Carbide USA and its former Chairman, Warren Anderson – to trial, they are supposed to be absconding. In fact, even after an order in 2005 by the CJM Court of Bhopal to Dow Chemical, which has taken over Union Carbide, to bring its subsidiary before the court, the CBI has for the last 4 years made no attempt to implement this order. In fact, documents available with us show that government officials at the highest level have assured Dow Chemical that they will try their best to absolve the company of all its liabilities arising out of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

All this indicates that the inept handling of the Bhopal case by the CBI is because of government pressure. In order to appease the giant multinationals of the United States and the US government – whose basic task is to protect the interests of its corporations – the government of India deliberately pressurized the CBI to “go slow” on the case. In fact, in their two decade long struggle for justice, the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors have not only had to fight Union Carbide and its successor company Dow, but also the government of India which has been more interested in currying favour with American corporations rather than protect the interests of its citizens.

The immense outrage among the people  caused by the patently unfair judgement and its scathing criticism in the press have put the government on the backfoot. The hurried steps taken by the government like setting up a group of Ministers to examine all aspects of the tragedy appear to be an attempt to cover up its complicity with Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. Considering the past record of the government on not just on the issue of Bhopal gas tragedy, but also on other issues of corporate crime, these  steps  appear only to be an eyewash, an attempt to buy time, till the uproar dies down.

We call upon the Prime Minister, as Minister in Charge of the CBI, to accept responsibility for the failure of the CBI in its role as the prosecuting agency. We demand  the creation of a Special Prosecution Cell for effective and timely action on extradition of foreign accused and prosecution of Dow Chemical.

Do join us for this important protest. I am attaching a pamphlet we are bringing out for this protest. This is the english draft, the pamphlet will be brought out in Marathi.

You may send in your comments as the draft is going for printing tomorrow morning.

Bhopal Survivors Call Verdict and Trial Utter Disappointment

International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, Press Statement for immediate release on June 7, 2010

Contact: India, Nityanand Jayaraman: +91 9444082401; US, Shana Ortman, 415-746-0306

www.bhopal.netwww.studentsforbhopal.org

Terming today’s verdict and sentence against 7 officials of Union Carbide India Ltd., and the company an utter disappointment, Bhopal survivors today said they are resolved to challenge it in higher legal fora. “We feel outraged and betrayed. This is not justice. This is a travesty of justice,” said Hazra Bee of International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. “The paltry sentencing is a slap in the face of suffering Bhopal victims.” Survivors have condemned the Indian government’s “criminal negligence” in the prosecution of those accused of responsibility for the world’s worst corporate massacre.

They said that as the Minister in charge of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Prime Minister must accept blame for the prosecuting agency’s incompetence and mishandling of the case.

UCIL’s 7 Indian officials were awarded a 2-year prison sentence and a paltry fine of Rs. 101,750 (about $2100) today, while Union Carbide India Ltd (now Eveready Industries India Ltd) was fined Rs. 5,00,000 ($11000). All accused are out on bail of Rs. 25,000. Today’s verdict was in the case against only the 9 Indian accused (8 individuals and UCIL), one of whom died in the course of the trial. The foreign accused – Union Carbide Corporation, Warren Anderson and Union Carbide Eastern – are absconding and the CBI has failed to take action to bring them to India to face trial.

The verdict was greeted with protests, slogan-shouting and die-ins by irate Bhopalis who defied prohibitory orders to vent their anger outside the court. “By handling those those guilty of the world’s worst industrial disaster so leniently, our courts and Government are telling dangerous industries and corporate CEOs that they stand to lose nothing even if they put entire populations and the environment at risk,” said Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.

The organizations said that in 18 years the CBI had not even been able to bring the principal accused; Union Carbide, USA and its former Chairman Warren Anderson, to face trial. Further, because of CBI’s inept handling, a third foreign accused – Union Carbide Eastern Inc, Hong Kong has managed to escape the criminal proceedings altogether. “There is documentary evidence that Union Carbide, USA and Anderson knew that the Bhopal plant design was based on “untested technology”, they were in full control over operations and safety of the factory and it is they who directed reckless cost – cutting. Justice cannot be done in Bhopal till these principal accused are brought to trial,” said Rashida Bee who has lost six people in her family due to the disaster.

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Comment on the Bhopal gas tragedy judgement from ICJB and Lokayat

Comment by Lokayat on the Judgement given in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case on behalf of

lnternational Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB)

On behalf of struggling victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy who have been fighting for the last 25 years for justice, we’d like to thank the media for the excellent and sympathetic coverage given to the case and the strong comments given by the media on the judgement.

The judgement is indeed disappointing. It is indeed a making mockery of the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster. After 25 years of trial, in an accident wherein more than 25000 have died so far and more than 1 lakh are sick with severely impaired lungs, eyes, reproductive and immune systems, and mental health, yet the company’s Indian officials have only been sentenced to a mere 2 years in jail and a nominal fine. They have immediately got bail, and in all probability, they will never go to jail. Such a minor sentence, which is similar to the sentence given for rash driving. When it was not an accident, the company was being run in such a risky way so as to maximise its profits that the gas leak was bound to happen. In fact the safety officer of the company resigned six months before the December 1984 gas leak, saying in his resignation letter that the way the company was being run, an accident is bound to happen sooner or later.

The gas leak was waiting to happen. Union Carbide had knowingly designed the plant with inferior and unproven technology. Then, to enhance profits, the company went on a cost cutting drive: reducing personnel, adopting hazardous operating procedures, and cutting down on vital safety measures and plant maintenance. In 1982, a safety audit warned of a high potential for a gas leak. Workers injuries, gas leaks, even deaths predated the disaster. But all these warnings were ignored, in the lust for profits. On the night of the disaster, none of the six safety systems designed to prevent or contain a leak were working! Some of them had deliberately been shut down to save electricity bills!!

Despite all this evidence, the investigation was carried out so shoddily by the CBI that all the accused have got away with very light sentences. The reason for this shoddy investigation is that there was no political will to pursue the cases strongly: from the very day of the disaster, the government has tried its best to ensure that Union Carbide gets away lightly. The Chief Executive Officer of Union Carbide Mr. Warren Anderson was allowed to fly back to the USA on bail, and since then no attempt has been made to extradite him to India. The Supreme Court has also sided with the company rather than the people of India. When the government entered into a completely unjust out of court settlement with Union Carbide wherein all that the company had to pay as compensation was a mere $470 million (or merely Rs. 25000 for each survivor for a lifetime of illnesses), the Supreme Court upheld the settlement. Not only that, in 1996, the Supreme Court also diluted the charges against the company’s officials, which is one of the reasons why these officials have got away with such minor sentences.

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