Tuesday, June 8, 2010

No Justice For Bhopal Victims

Naturally, the Indian media has come down hard on the recent verdict of eight former Union Carbide executives for their involvement in a chemical leak in Bhopal that resulted in the deaths of thousands and injury of countless more.

I’m not going to quibble about the light sentences the former executives received, this is not the point of this post. What I would like to talk about, however, is how the Indian government betrayed the victims through its inactions.

First of all, that it took 25-years to reach this verdict is mind-boggling. I know justice in India is a very slow, creaky wheel, but even by its own standards, India’s judiciary system has outdone itself! This is a classic example of justice delayed is justice denied. And on top that, such weak sentences! One wonders why the courts even bothered.

Second, the Indian government did not have the victim’s interests at heart when they settled for a paltry $470 million from Union Carbide. This was the 1980s, after all, Nehruvian socialism was still in vogue yet after hectoring both the United States and Union Carbide, it settled for mere peanuts. I have no doubt, in my mind, corruption played a part. Key players were paid off in exchange for indemnity.

The shame of Bhopal and its outcome should be put in proportion, and the Indian government should get the lion’s share of it.

ADDENDUM: Perhaps the victims should sue the Indian government since it failed -- through shear criminal negligence -- to protect its citizens. The multi-billion dollar settlement should come from its coffers and not from Union Carbide, or the United States, who, in my opinion, acted in good faith.

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