The Acts of the Democracies




USA Company in India

A gas explosion in a plant owned by the USA company Union Carbide kills 14,419 people (by 2002) in the city of Bhopal, India. The explosion sent 23,000 kg of poisonous gas over the nearby slums of the city. Over 4,000 die on the night in agony, water pouring from their burning eyes, lungs in intense pain, defacating and urinating in the clothes.

Hundreds of thousands more are injured, suffering from wheezing, breathlessness, damaged sight, joint pains, loss of memory, sterility and other ailments. Many are still in pain twnty years later.

Union Carbide persuades the USA judge hearing the case to refer it back to India so that far less compensation would have to be paid.

The plant manufactured the pesticide, Sevin, which contains the poison, methyl isocyanate. Similar plants in the USA stored this highly poisonous chemical in small concentrations to minimise risk; in India it was stored in bulk.

In addition because of cost cutting, safety was lax:

In 1999, Greenpeace would describe the site of the plant as a "global toxic hot spot". The ground water in the vicinity contains levels of Mercury between 20,000 and 6 million times the normal levels. No attempt is made by Union Carbide to rehabilitate the site.

India attempts to extradite Warren Anderson, the chief executive of the company, without success. Anderson had been behind the company cost cutting drive prior to the accident and had accepted "moral responsibility" for the disaster. The USA declares that there is no case to answer and no liability.

By 2004, the average compensation paid was less than $ 600. The government of India had accepted $ 470 million from Union Carbide without consulting the victims. Most of the money remains in Indian government bank accounts. Over 100,000 people suffer from chronic or debilitating illnesses as a result of the accident.

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