Guest post by SAGAR DHARA
On 2 Dec 1984, Bhopal’s unsuspecting population was hit in the stealth of the night by methyl isocyanate (MIC), a killer gas that leaked from the Union Carbide plant located on the northern edge of the city. The official immediate death toll was 2,259, though journalists estimated it to be thrice that number. Government of India now admits that the cumulative number of deaths is more than 20,000.
At first glance, the event looks like an engineering accident. Wash water seeped through a closed valve, got into MIC Tank 610 and triggered a runaway reaction that ruptured it and spilt 42 tonnes of MIC. Low wind speeds made the heavier-than-air gas cloud hug the ground at high concentrations as it drifted towards nearby slums. The highly corrosive gas caused massive edema in the lungs.
Economics is root cause for accident
The cause for the accident can be traced to low product sales that made the company disinvest in safety and environmental systems. Prior to 1980, Carbide formulated Sevin, a carbamate group pesticide, with imported chemicals at their Mumbai plant. Because of Sevin’s popularity, Carbide built a new plant in Bhopal to manufacture it. By then synthetic pyrethroids, the next generation pesticide, started pushing carbamates out of the Indian market. Consequently, the Bhopal plant never produced more than 50% of its installed capacity and its financial returns were unhappy. Continue reading Bhopal Victims Neglect a Consequence of Disinvestment and Low Value of Life: Sagar Dhara
Guest post by KIRAN SHAHEEN
Impeachment by Anjali Deshpande, published by Hachette India, is a well-told fictional narrative skilfully woven around the aftermath of the shameful disaster commonly known as the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
The novel is dedicated to Dr Heeresh Chandra, a name we have seldom heard in the 28 years since the tragedy. Who is this doctor to whom the book is dedicated? The author, in a conversation says that for her, this doctor of the dead is not simply unsung but the only true hero of Bhopal.
While reading Impeachment it is difficult to decide whether it is history claiming to be fiction or fiction masquerading as history. The novel recounts actual incidents that still haunt us, intertwined with the fictional private lives of activists that are also the arena of intense gender and caste politics.
Continue reading Review: ‘Impeachment’ by Anjali Deshpande
Guest post by SHALINI SHARMA
It hardly needs any corroboration that the Bhopal Movement led by survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster adheres to the principles of non- violence as dearly as they adhere to their demands of justice and accountability. However, on the 3rd of December 2011, as thousands of Bhopal gas victims walked towards the city’s railway lines they had little idea that their act of civil disobedience, marking the 27th Anniversary of the disaster, would be sabotaged by the government and that they would be treated like a violent mob.
Anniversary actions are usually treated as rituals by the media. This occasion was different because even though chakka jaam (block the road) has been organised on several previous occasions, the call for blocking the trains or rail roko was an unusual decision. These survivor-led groups were asking the State government to provide the Supreme Court with the right data related to the number of deaths and actual extent of injuries due to the gas exposure.
Continue reading Bhopal, Media and a “Training Manual”: Shalini Sharma
2 December 2009 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. It was the night of 2nd December 1984 when over 35 tons of toxic gases leaked from a pesticide plant in Bhopal, owned by the US based multinational Union Carbide Corporation (UCC)’s Indian affiliate Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL). In the next 2-3 days more than 7,000 people died and many more were injured. Over the last 25 years at least 15,000 more people have died from illnesses related to the gas exposure. Today, more than 100,000 people continue to suffer from chronic and debilitating illnesses, for which treatment is largely ineffective. The disaster shocked the world and raised fundamental questions about government and corporate responsibility for industrial accidents that devastate human life and local environments. Yet 25 years later, the survivors and various organisations are still fighting for justice. Issues of plant site, toxic wastes and contaminated water have not been resolved. And strikingly, no one has been held to account for the leak and its appalling consequences. Bhopal is not just an incident of industrial disaster and human suffering from the last century. It is very much an issue of the present century of corporate accountability, peoples’ rights and government responsibility. The lack of mandatory laws and norms governing multinationals, legal complexities, and government failures are serious obstacles in ensuring justice for the people of Bhopal, and for the victims of corporate complicity in crimes against environment, peoples’ lives and safety. Continue reading Bhopal Disaster, Corporate Responsibility and Peoples’ Rights
Several years ago while shooting for “Urdu Hai Jiska Naam” Subhash Kapoor, the director of the series and I had gone to Bhopal because we wanted Habib Saheb to anchor the series. While location hunting we went to see the Museum of Man – a sprawling open-air campus, spread on one side of the famous Shaamla hills in Bhopal. One area of the museum is dedicated to tribal myths and their theories of creation. The Gond myth of creation fascinated me greatly and I narrated it to Habib Saheb in the evening. Habib Sahib liked the story and took it down in as much detail as I could remember. Sometime later when I saw a performance of Zahreeli Hawa, Habib Saheb’s play on the Bhopal Gas tragedy, I realised that he had woven the Gond myth in the preamble of his play and had very effectively incorporated contemporary environmental concerns and the pillage of MNCs in this primordial tale of great simplicity and beauty. Continue reading Habib Tanveer and the Gond Myth of Creation