Millennium Post

Bhopal loses battle against Warren Anderson, again

Anderson, the then chairman of Union Carbide Corp, who arrived in Bhopal four days after the fatally poisonous methyl isocyanate leak on the intervening night of 3-4 December 1984 occurred, was not only allowed to go scot-free by the then Congress government at the centre, he was actively shielded and escorted out of the country.

The sordid tale of Indian government going woefully soft on Anderson is stuff of lore. The Union Carbide chief, whose death on 29 September 2014 was officially announced by his family only on 31 October, has once again eluded the families and friends of Bhopal victims, about 20,000 of whom died within weeks of the gas leak. Over half a million people were exposed to methyl isocyanate and other chemicals after a malfunction at the plant let out the lethal gas, which killed about 3,700 on the spot, while about 16,000 died due to exposure within a few weeks.

Yet the Bhopal gas victims not only have been sidelined to shelter a US chemical company, bought over by Dow Chemical, one of the biggest private American corporations, in 2001. Bhopal victims have received a paltry compensation of Rs eight lakh each, even though medical bills have run into several lakhs.

Civil and criminal cases are pending in District Court of Bhopal against Union Carbide Corp and Warren Anderson, then CEO of the company. After relentless struggle of rights activists, particularly the international motley group of students, teachers and activists We For Bhopal, as well as the Satinath Sarangi-led Bhopal Group for Information and Action, for three decades, hope had surfaced in July 2010, when seven ex-employees, including Anderson, were convicted by Bhopal for causing death by negligence. Yet neither had the Indian government made any attempt to extradite Anderson, nor has it apologised for the shameful manner in which he was let off by the then Congress government under Rajiv Gandhi.

It is often alleged that then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Arjun Singh was directly involved in giving Anderson a safe passage out of India. According to well-placed sources, Moti Singh, the then collector of Bhopal, was asked by the then chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh to not only arrange for Anderson’s bail (against a miniscule personal surety of Rs 25,000), but also escort him to the airport and put him on a state government plane to Delhi. From Delhi, Anderson was flown to USA, thereby ensuring that he never has to visit India again and face trial for being liable for deaths of thousands of innocent Indians in one of the most horrific and staggering chemical disaster ever in the whole world.

Now, with Anderson dead, one chapter of Bhopal Gas Tragedy has been closed forever, even though the families and friends of the victims struggle to make their voices heard. The death of Anderson has also saved the current NDA government from a huge litmus test. Extraditing Anderson from US soil would have been a Herculean task even for Narendra Modi.  With his death, Anderson ensured that the toxic legacy of 1984 and Bhopal Gas Tragedy is denied complete closure. 
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