Note - My little cousin sister of three years recently learned to say sorry when she does something wrong. The next thing my masi (aunt) is teaching her is to clean up the mess she makes after playing with her toys. Okay, now, go ahead, read the post.
As a part of my journalism course, I've got a chance to visit Bhopal and see the place where the world's biggest ever industrial tragedy took place in 1982. Frankly speaking, it's a trip. And I would have preferred to visit some beach or go camping to hills as a part of my trip. But the discovery of some very disturbing facts made me convince that I should not miss the trip to this not-so-happening place. A lot has happened there which we need to be aware of.
For people who don't know, Union Carbide Factory, a franchise of a US company came to India with the intention of setting up a fertilizer factory in Bhopal.
The Indian government was happy. They were happy that foreign investment and revenue was coming in. They were happy that good quality fertilizers would be available to our farmers. What they did not expect to receive in the bargain was a seething loss of millions of lives.
Twenty-five years have passed since that night of terror and death in Bhopal, which saw a cloud of deadly gases explode out of a faulty tank in the pesticide factory and silently spread into the homes of sleeping people. It was a night which has never ended.
Interestingly, the tragedy occurred because of a very, very minor fault, i.e. of a gas leakage. The gas stored in the tank was supposed to be stored at a temp of minus five degrees or less, for which proper refrigeration was provided. Till one fine day, the then-CEO of company, Warren Andrews decided to turn off the refrigeration valve in June 1984 as the maintenance costs were crossing their budget.
Although several safety warnings were issued to the factory, no heed was paid to them. And then, on the night of December 3, 1984 when all the workers had returned to their homes, the gas valve started leaking around 12 am. At that point of time, it had 45,000 kg of poisonous gas which was unleashed on the sleeping city of Bhopal. The temperature in the valve had reached a good 45 degree celsius.
I do not need to get into all the details, as I believe that my informed readers do have an idea about this tragedy. It will be suffice to say that people were choked to death in their sleep, pregnant women suffered sudden miscarriages, lung cancer, burning sensation in eyes, breathlessness et al.
It was India's very own Hiroshima and Nagasaki. People born in that area of Bhopal still suffer from deadly breathing diseases, lung cancers and women still end up losing their child while it's still in their womb.
On that fateful night, the CEO was arrested, released on bail and flied to Delhi via a State-owned plane from where he was secretly departed to US, never to return again. The factory is today owned by Dow Jones, one of the biggest players in world economy. The current CEO still lives lavishly in sub urban New York and is indifferent to the tragedy.
The company was asked to pay damages to the victims. After 12 years of long legal battle, the company shelled out 12,000 to the kins of deceased. Rs 12,000 each, was the price paid for millions of innocent lives lost.
Interestingly, the govt today does not hesitate to announce compensation of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh even in some minor rail accident. And the world's biggest industrial tragedy got weighed at 12,000 grands wonly.
I wonder if a similar incident would have taken place in US in some Indian owned company. Would it's Indian CEO be able to escape in the same manner? Bah, we all know the answer too well. Don't we?
Headlines like "Brown-skinned Indian held for murdering several first world citizens in their sleep" would probably do the rounds of USA Today and New York Times. (Man, i really need to stop imagining now).
My little sister knows how to clean up her mess, I wonder when will the CEO of the biggest company in the world will learn to do that!