Sunday, June 13, 2010

Emergency causing emergency?

Who knows what one swift decision might lead to? I wonder if those who grant licenses to chemical industries can even picture the possibilities contained within those factories where hazardous chemical compounds are being manufactured. I know I couldn't have imagined it - boxes of inanimate matter leading to deaths and birth defects even at a generation's remove... and all it takes is a signature on a piece of paper. A license, a clearing of bureaucratic hurdles, a dismissal of all fears about pollution.

A paper - whether in triplicate or not - got signed. And then thousands and thousands of dead mutilated bodies.

Another signature must have led to the imposition of a national emergency. Which led to an overriding of all objections to every state decision - whether from rival politicians, or bureaucrats or the press or activists. Which led to the granting of a license. Which led to...

What exactly the Emergency had to do with the Bhopal tragedy has not been investigated but according to this press release, "on 1st January 1970, Union Carbide Company had applied for industrial license... The company did not get industrial license for more than 5 years. There must have been sufficient reason to withhold permission for industrial license. After the imposition of Emergency, the company was granted the license on till (sic) 31st October, 1975".

The release is up here . It makes a few other points about state culpability. It quotes Mohan P Tiwari, Chief Judicial Magistrate, Bhopal, whose statement says: “(z) It is worthwhile to mention here that the Government of India and the Team of Scientists admittedly was never permitted to visit the Plant at Verginia, (sic) USA. No brochure, or any other documentary evidence demonstrating the similarity between the two plants at Verginia and Bhopal has been produced before the court by the defence."

I personally think the victims of 1984 would be perfectly justified in suing the state of Madhya Pradesh and the Government of India. Dow, Union Carbide, Anderson, and the local managers are all guilty and should be punished. But so is the state - for not inspecting the factory and insisting on better safety measures, for not insisting that their scientists be allowed to visit the American plant if they felt it was necessary before granting a license, and for not investigating this whole business of who cleared the project in 1975 and who renewed that license in 1982.


Ahmer Siddiqui said...

Interesting that you mention signatures in your post.

ICJB is running a fax the PM action online. Our Signatures now can be used to bring pressure on the PM.

Sumeet said...

Thanks for this insightful post.

Usually in the jingoistic hyperbole, as a collective voice, the nation always seeks to identify the 'other' as the villain, that ought to be punished. In this case, the 'other' is the Union Carbide executives.

However, it is worthwhile nothing (as you have also indicated), that perhaps the state is even more to be blamed for allowing the establishment of such an entity without adequate technical precautionary measures and legal structures.

Hence, any discussion on this subject must be vigilant to this aspect.

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