Monday, June 7, 2010

Bhopal Convictions -- 2 Years And $2,175 In Fines 26 Years Later For World's Worst Industrial Accident

If residents in the Gulf Coast think BP and the federal government is slow to respond to their claims and grievances ...

If victims of the 1989 Exxon Valdez in Alaska thought the U.S. justice system moved at a glacier pace to address their damages ...

Then, you got nothing over the 15,000 killed and hundreds of thousands born with birth defects from the 1984 gas leak of a Union Carbide Indian subsidiary in Bhopal where a court Monday convicted seven former senior employees for "death by negligence."

The seven -- all Indians and in their 70s -- were sentenced to two years in prison, fined $2,175 each and released on bail pending appeals. The subsidiary, now renamed Everready Industries India, was convicted on the same charges and fined $10,870.

In the understatement of the year, Law Minister Veerappa Moily told reporters after the verdict: "It's most unfortunate that it has taken that much of time to give the verdict. We need to address that."

Family survivors and rights groups protested the verdict. Rachna Dhingra, an activist with the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, called Monday's ruling "a travesty of justice."

"But this is not new or unexpected," Dhingra said. "Every one of these men is free on bail and will go home to their families tonight. For survivors and families of victims there is nothing to go home to. They lost their families."

Indian government investigators said that after 25 years at least 500,000 people were affected with many children born with brain damage, missing palates and twisted limbs because of their parents' exposure to the gas or water it contaminated.

The leak occurred Dec. 3, 1984, releasing 40 tons of deadly methyl isocyanate gas into the air. India's Central Bureau of Investigation, the country's top investigative agency, has said the plant was not following proper safety procedures before the disaster.

Union Carbide was bought by Dow Chemical Co. in 2001. Dow says the legal case was resolved in 1989 when Union Carbide settled with the Indian government for $470 million, and that all responsibility for the factory now rests with the government of the state of Madhya Pradesh, which now owns the site.

On Monday, Union Carbide in a statement on its website said the company and its officials were not subject to the jurisdiction of the Indian court since they did not have any involvement in the operation of the plant.

Union Carbide Corp. said the accident was an act of sabotage by a disgruntled employee who was never identified. It has denied the disaster was the result of lax safety standards or faulty plant design, as claimed by some activists.

Just thought I would pass along this little tidbit of corporate negligence and government response that when things look dour in our country, it could be worse in another.

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