Sunday, June 20, 2010

Give me an O2 mask....I want to visit Bhopal!

I'm not mocking anyone when I say this....I'm actually serious when I say that I need an oxygen mask to guarantee safe and healthy passage across some places in the once mesmerizing city of Bhopal. Bhopal or the City of Lakes is the second largest city of Madhya Pradesh which is a famous tourist’s destination for its artistically built and exquisite Laxmi Narayan Temple, Taj-ul-Masjid, Moti Masjid, Shaukat Mahal, Upper lake, Lower lake, Van Vihar (Zoo), to name a few scenic and mostly visited and liked tourist spots.

But along with this awesome scenic beauty that this capital city of Madhya Pradesh exhibits, it also carries a “black spot” with its name, for being listed as a place which once dealt with and is still reeling over the worst industrial catastrophe in the world – “The Bhopal Gas Leak” – which killed a staggering 15000 people and paralysed and maimed thousands in Bhopal then.

The question is....what did we do about it then?
The dreadful Bhopal gas tragedy is something that didn’t happen today or something that occurred very recently. At this very moment, I’m writing about something that occurred 25yrs back in Dec 1984 at the pesticide production plant in Bhopal which was operated by Union Carbide India Ltd. (UCIL), an American subsidiary company owned by Union Carbide Corporation (UCC). Reckless decisions made by the management and faulty handling by operators resulted in the tragic leakage of the poisonous gas which spread across the length and breadth of the area surrounding the plant.

After a little over 25years of deep slumber and dwarfing of this entire tragedy by the authorities in India, the case resurfaced recently for the court hearing (verdict) upon the alleged convicts minus the Ex-CEO, Chairman and decision maker of the company, Mr. Warren Andersen, who although is equally responsible for the tragic gas leak...left India scot free to live in his home country. Doesn’t Mr. Andersen’s conscience kill him for being irresponsible and for recklessly taking thousands of innocent lives? Doesn’t this episode haunt him while he sits to have his meals in his plush bungalow in New York city? I wonder how he has merrily lived his life the last 25 years without being haunted for his misdeed???? (I know too many question marks typify bad writing, but believe me I quiet seriously have those many questions marks staring at me when I think of Mr. Andersen’s character and crude behaviour).

A full bodied post mortem
I don't seem to understand why nothing happened in the last 25years? Were the governing authorities so busy that they couldn't make the most important verdict in the world's worst “chemical disaster” by declaring quick punishments to the perpetrators?

In fact, it was better off if the legal proceedings of this case was handled by the US because I'm sure the American judiciary would ensure that a fair and objective verdict be given to the villains of this disaster...eventually giving justice to the victims and survivors of the Bhopal tragedy. Bringing to light the way President Obama diligently and equitably handled the recent oil spill case along the Gulf of Mexico....which is something that the world looks up to and genuinely applauds Obama for his realistic people management skills. For Obama and his administration, every decision is made keeping the country's citizens as the central focus....unlike some of our corrupt officials who can stoop to any level to make quick bucks at the cost of the nation.

Silencing the catastrophe to yield steep GDP’s
I have tremendous respect for some of the leading lights in the government today, but I don’t seem to understand why they silenced this issue for so long. Who told the authorities that the people of this country want to see only “good growth figures”, “industrial progress”, “sky rocketing GDP”, and “Indian’s rocketing to the moon and exploring space”. In fact, we want simple things for this nation. We want every human being in our country to breath in a pollution free and chemical free environment; we want to see every individual receiving at least two meals a day; we want basic health benefits for every citizen irrespective of whether he/she can afford the service or not; we want sanitised and clean municipal hospitals; and we want a safe and a clean city to live in and sustain this for the next generations to come.

After 25 years, today, the government has initiated a response cell called the “Group of Ministers” (GoM) which is made responsible to take stock of the recent Bhopal judgement and to assess the options and remedies available to the government. This group is formed, to basically initiate an action plan to cast off the toxic and contaminated mess in Bhopal and also guarantee hike in compensation to the victims and survivors of the tragedy. Surely a good move....but a step taken after so many years of the tragedy, speaks volumes about the self centred, corrupt, and egoistic side of our ministers.

Quick and ingenious actions required
Relocation and rehabilitation of the people is the need of the hour. So many people still live in the poisonous environment of Bhopal and even today children are born with psychological or physical disorders because of the toxic air that the survivors breathe in. How can we be so cruel to an unborn child and his mother? Additionally, the poisonous pesticide plant which is still spewing poisonous gases should be cracked open and the waste treated and discarded. Furthermore, health check-ups and safe medical treatment of each and every person living in the vicinity of the poisonous defunct plant should be on top of the list.

I am pretty speculative of the investigative report that will be submitted to the Prime Minister by the GoM. Sources say that GoM will prepare their reports after investigating the Bhopal situation from ground zero for a week. Only if our authorities had spent the same 7 days way back in the 1980’s when the tragedy had just struck the poor people of Bhopal in the wee hours of the night.......we wouldn’t have lost so many lives and would have done justice to the survivors then.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Do write to me with your reactions, opinions or critical comments at or leave your inputs in the comments tab below.

Before I sign out, as I always say take very good care of yourself and God Bless!


Uma said...

Hi Mearl,

Good editorial wherein u have well dissected India’s biggest Industrial disaster. This is a clear cut case of political bungling, wherein Politics play in every sphere of our life, sadly even in a tragedy of this scale/death. U have rightly mentioned abt India waking up fm deep slumber after a quarter of a century, wonder if our politicians were so selfish/na├»ve.

No amount of compensation will heal the wounds of the next of the kin who have lost their loved ones 26 years back. As GoM have announced a fresh compensation of
10 Lacs for each and every victim, wonder if the desired amount will be actually disbursed to the real victim’s kin or will it b siphoned off by the corrupt officials/get stuck in red tape.

The GoI needs to come out with a White Paper on all major/potentially threatening plants which doesn’t comply or are compromising with the safety standards to avert any such mishap in future. We need more whistle blowers.

With Indo-US Nuclear deal sealed, the Govt has to keep in mind the draft of the
Civil Nuclear Liability Bill where in Companies who will come up to setup their shop are made liable and DONOT walk scot free incase of any nuclear disaster.
Nuclear accidents like the one at Three Mile Island & Chernobyl will spell a catastrophic impact both in terms of death and radiation for us. I am sure the Govt has learned its lessons and will not get swayed away by the interest of MNC’s at the cost of our citizens.

Wish good sense prevails.

Jai Ho

Mearl Colaco said...

Hi Uma,

Thanks once again for your feedback and comments. Valid point mentioned about nuclear set-up's in India which could cause the same and even more grave catastrophe than the Bhopal tragedy.

Safety precautions definitely needs to be tightened, but just like an oil spill from a rig cannot stop oil extraction...similarly, we shouldn’t stop FDI’s coming into India. But in the same breathe we need to be serious about not falsely crediting them for their color or the amount of money they can generate. Rather scrutinize the amount of emphasis they lay on safely of each component they bring to India, including the mentality and attitudes of the top management.

Cheers, Mearl C.

Dave's Raves said...

Hello Mearl

I've been stealing peeks into your blog :) Wow, quite a social critic you are! Very well informed! Keep it up because many like me are enjoying your comments!

Your DNV colleague,
David Wong

Mearl Colaco said...

Thanks David. Cheers!