Crimes of Bhopal and the Global Campaign for Justice

By Sarangi, Satinath | Social Justice, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Crimes of Bhopal and the Global Campaign for Justice


Sarangi, Satinath, Social Justice


Crimes of Bhopal

ON THE NIGHT OF DECEMBER 2 TO 3, 1984, THE CHEMICAL DISASTER AT THE UNION Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, left a half million people surrounded by deadly poison clouds while they slept. The disaster killed more than 8,000 people in its immediate wake (Morehouse and Subramaniam, 1985). The death toll today is well over 20,000 and rising (Dinham, 2002), with over 30 survivors dying every month (Madhya Pradesh Government, 2001). Today, well over 120,000 survivors are in desperate need of medical attention for chronic exposure-induced diseases (Dinham, 2002), including breathlessness, persistent cough, early-age cataracts, loss of appetite, menstrual irregularities, recurrent fever, back and body aches, loss of sensation in limbs, fatigue, weakness, anxiety, and depression. An overwhelming majority of the exposed people earned their living through hard labor. Thousands of families are on the brink of starvation because the breadwinners are dead or too sick to work.

Union Carbide simply abandoned the factory. Today, over 20,000 people in the surrounding area rely on drinking water contaminated with chemicals that have seeped into the ground water from the plant, causing cancer and other diseases (Labunska et al., 1999). Union Carbide's own report on the contamination indicates that over one-third of the factory premises is hazardously contaminated. A recent report of the Fact Finding Mission on Bhopal (1999) shows that the poisons in the groundwater are present in high concentrations in the breast milk of women in the surrounding communities. Union Carbide has yet to pay for containing the toxic groundwater, rehabilitating the degraded land, or arranging an alternate supply of drinking water.

Corporate Crimes

There is substantial evidence that Union Carbide, with complete control over the pesticide factory in Bhopal, was deliberately negligent in the factory's location, design, operation, and maintenance. Two years before the disaster, the corporation's safety experts warned in a confidential business memo of a "potential for the release of toxic materials." Warren Anderson, the company's chairman, and other senior executives ignored the warning and went ahead with reducing plant personnel, shutting down vital safety systems, and keeping people in the neighborhood in the dark about the deadly chemicals stored, used, and produced in the factory. Less than three months before the disaster, an internal Union Carbide memo warned of a "runaway reaction that could cause a catastrophic failure of the storage tanks holding the poisonous (methyl isocyanate) gas" at Union Carbide's Institute, West Virginia, plant. This warning was not shared with the management, let alone with operators of the Bhopal facility (Jones, 1988; Agarwal and Tandon, 1985; Bidwai, 1985; International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, 1985; Pesticide Action Network UK, n.d.; Chouhan, 1994).

Three days after the disaster, Anderson, on a PR visit to Bhopal, was arrested along with other officials and soon released on bail. He was then escorted to New Delhi on a special government aircraft and allowed to leave the country. He never came back. Neither did any representative from Union Carbide Corporation.

In January 1987, the Indian government's counsels for the prosecution, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), charged Warren Anderson, the corporation, and nine other Union Carbide subsidiaries and officials with manslaughter, grievous assault, and other serious offenses that were punishable by over 10 years of imprisonment and fines. In 1992, Union Carbide Corporation and former chairman Warren Anderson were proclaimed "absconders" by a judgment of the Bhopal District Court for their failure to appear to face criminal charges (Morehouse, 1994).

Fifteen years later, India's prosecutors have had a rethink. On May 24, 2002, in a small dusty courtroom in Bhopal, the CBI presented an innocuous-looking four-page application before the Chief Judicial Magistrate with the purpose of diluting the charges they had earlier pressed against Union Carbide and Warren Anderson in the criminal case on the disaster in Bhopal (London Free Press, 2002).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Crimes of Bhopal and the Global Campaign for Justice
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.