People across India and all over the world have expressed horror and anger at the verdict and called it a complete travesty of justice.
“We feel outraged and betrayed. This is not justice. This is a travesty of justice,” said Hazra Bee of International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. “The paltry sentencing is a slap in the face of suffering Bhopal victims.” Survivors condemned the Indian government’s “criminal negligence” in the prosecution of the accused in the world’s worst corporate disaster.
Warren Anderson, who was then the head of Union Carbide and the primary accused, has been allowed to go scot free. UCIL’s 7 Indian officials were awarded a 2-year prison sentence and a paltry fine of Rs. 101,750 (about $2100), while Union Carbide India Ltd (now Eveready Industries India Ltd) was fined only Rs. 5,00,000 ($11000). All accused were taken into custody but immediately freed on an individual bail of Rs. 25,000. The trial court’s verdict was in the case against only the nine Indian accused (8 individuals and UCIL), one of whom died in the course of the trial.
The charges against those that were found guilty were framed under Section 304 A of the Indian Penal Code — the provision used most frequently in India for traffic accidents. There was no verdict against the foreign accused, Warren Anderson, Union Carbide Corporation USA and Union Carbide (Eastern) Hong Kong — all of whom are absconding and the CBI has failed to take action to bring them to India to face trial!
Over 25,000 people died from the gas leak on the night of December 2, 1984 and over 5 lakh people living in the vicinity of the plant have been affected seriously for life. The gas leak has caused severe genetic deformations in children of subsequent generations. The toxic chemicals remaining in the ground water and at the factory site are being consumed by approximately 20,000 people every day. The central government and government of Madhya Pradesh have done nothing to clean up the toxic wastes even after 26 years and provide the people clean drinking water.
The compensation that the victims finally received is Rs. 15,000 per victim on an average, for which they had to run from pillar to post.
All facts go to show that successive governments at the centre connived to ensure that Union Carbide and its owners and managers got away scot free. The CBI allowed Warren Anderson to leave India, following orders from the then government of Rajiv Gandhi. The government of India has never seriously pursued for his extradition with the US government.
The Supreme Court of India, under instruction from the government, quashed charges against Union Carbide in 1989. In 1991, under public pressure, it reinstated charges. In 1996, it reduced charges to the present charges which are akin to those made in traffic accidents. The CBI never sought review of this judgment. As a result of all this, the verdict of the trial in the sessions court in Bhopal was a foregone conclusion.
Numerous documents show that Union Carbide was well aware of the dangerous consequences of the gas leak, and is guilty of criminal negligence. A worker had died and dozens injured in two separate accidents at the plant in 1981 and 1982. All the 6 safety systems in the plant were not operational on the night of December 2, 1984. The plant siren had been turned off. Maintenance supervisors had been eliminated from most shifts as cost cutting measures, even though the officials knew about the potentially hazardous situation. It was a tragedy waiting to happen and it happened.
Various ministers of the UPA government are shedding crocodile tears at the verdict. Different sections of the state administration are busy blaming each other. There is much talk about bringing in new legislations to deal with such cases in future. But the people who have been fighting so long, and so hard for justice cannot be fooled. Facts conclusively show that all the governments at the centre, as well as the Supreme Court of India and the investigative agencies of the state have together, deliberately protected the guilty and blocked the fight for justice.
It is the view of Lok Raj Sangathan that the Union Government should be held squarely responsible for denying justice to the victims of the Bhopal Gas tragedy. It is clear that the single concern of successive governments at the center, which has been behind their callous attitude to the Bhopal gas victims and survivors, is to ensure that nothing should jeopardize the efforts of the government to invite foreign capital to our country to plunder our labour and resources, kill and devastate our people, all for ensuring maximum profits of the corporates. This is a government which cares only for the Indian and foreign capitalists, not for the lives and well being of our people.
Lok Raj Sangathan calls upon all concerned citizens to continue the struggle to punish the guilty!