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Thread: American Double standards BP Oil spill vs Bhopal gas tragedy

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    Hall of Fame Member Cevno's Avatar
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    American Double standards BP Oil spill vs Bhopal gas tragedy

    Bhopal and the BP Oil Spill: A Tale of Two Disasters



    As BP struggles to contain the damage the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has caused to the Gulf of Mexico and to the people whose livelihoods depend on its waters, a legal judgment in the worst industrial catastrophe in history highlights how wrong the aftermath of such disasters can go not just in terms of a cleanup but in the matter of justice. It is a terrifying lesson in how a corporation can evade full responsibility for one of the most heinous accidents in human history.

    On Monday, more than 25 years after 40 tons of highly toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) was released from a Union Carbide plant in the central Indian city of Bhopal killing thousands in a matter of hours and over years, rendering hundreds of thousands seriously ill and causing genetic defects in yet-to-be-born generations a local court announced its verdict. It held eight former employees of Union Carbide India Ltd guilty of criminal negligence and sentenced seven of them to two years in prison and a fine of $2,100. (The eighth defendant died during the course of the 23-year trial.) The convicted former employees were out on bail of just $500 each in less than two hours. Union Carbide India, which no longer exists, was fined less than $11,000. (See the legacy of the Bhopal disaster.)

    The judgments are likely to be appealed. Given the speed of the wheels of justice in India, the case is likely to outlast most of the Bhopal survivors and the accused. The most prominent name in the latter category is Warren Anderson, the American CEO of Union Carbide, the U.S. parent company. He is now 89 years old. Arrested by Indian police when he visited the disaster site, he was released on bail and flew out of the country. He continues to be a fugitive from Indian law and hence has not been tried. (He is believed to be living somewhere in New York state.) At the same time, no one has been assigned responsibility for cleaning up Bhopal's ground zero, which researchers and activists say continues to leach toxic chemicals into the groundwater, used by thousands of families. (See TIME's 1984 cover story on the Bhopal disaster.)

    The outcome of the case has ignited outrage and disbelief across India. No less than the Law Minister and a former Chief Justice have said justice has been delayed and denied. The Economic Times newspaper led its front page with the headline "After 25 Years, Another Tragedy Strikes Bhopal." "We are used to being let down," says Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, her voice catching as she spoke to TIME by phone, "by our government ... now even the judiciary."

    The letdowns have been serious and repeated and apparently preordained because of decisions that facilitated the disaster itself. Investigations over the years have shown that the Bhopal plant design was faulty and that there was next to no emergency preparedness issues that the parent company in the U.S. apparently knew about, according to the groups that conducted the studies. The company was operating in India with standards unacceptable in the U.S. (See pictures of the Gulf oil spill.)

    The Indian government seemed to go out of its way to cushion the experience for Union Carbide. After first suing the company for $3.3 billion in 1985, New Delhi announced an out-of-court settlement of $470 million in February 1989. Then a 1996 ruling by another Supreme Court judge watered down the charges against the accused from culpable homicide (with maximum punishment of 10 years' jail term) to criminal negligence (maximum sentence two years).

    The various governments that have ruled India in the meantime have not taken on Union Carbide, which is now owned by Dow Chemical. Meanwhile, Keshub Mahindra, chairman of Union Carbide India Ltd at the time of the Bhopal disaster and now chairman of India's automobile giant Mahindra & Mahindra, was nominated for a civilian honor, the Padma Bhushan, in 2002. He had to decline in the face of widespread protests.

    Although environmental legislation was ramped up in the wake of the Bhopal disaster, companies continue to operate in India in ways that severely if not as dramatically pollute the environment and impact people's health and livelihoods. Britain-based mining major Vedanta, for instance, has faced censure from Amnesty International for violating the human rights of communities in Orissa, where it operates bauxite mines. India continues to be the world's e-waste dump. Of late, the government, keen to attract foreign investment to its nascent nuclear energy market, has been pushing a bill to limit the liability of a nuclear-plant operator to $111 million. "We've learned nothing from Bhopal," says Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan. "There is a drive to attract foreign investment overwhelming all other considerations." Opposition parties have already demanded a rethink of the proposed legislation in the face of the Bhopal outcome. (See pictures of people protesting BP.)

    There is still outrage that the U.S. refuses to extradite Warren Anderson to face criminal charges in India. New Delhi made the request in 2003, and it was refused the year after. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake, reacting to Monday's Bhopal verdict, said, "I don't expect this verdict to reopen any new inquiries or anything like that. On the contrary, we hope that this is going to help to bring closure." The Bhopal activists now plan to file a writ petition in the higher court to admit more charges against Union Carbide and Anderson, seeking an as-yet-unspecified figure for personal and property damages, health monitoring and cleanup of the site, which is likely to run into billions of dollars.

    Indians point at the way the U.S. government is now confronting BP holding it squarely responsible for the oil spill and accountable for all cleanup costs as a stark contrast to the way their own government has dealt with Union Carbide. The hope in India is that U.S. courts will be more amenable to the requests of Bhopal's victims now that America has a huge environmental disaster in its own backyard. The Bhopal activists say the Indian government must join the case in the U.S. as a plaintiff (indeed, it owns the land on which the Union Carbide factory was located). "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should be inspired by President Obama's recent commitment toward making BP pay every cent for its oil spill," says Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action. "And the U.S. government must follow the same standards on corporate liability for U.S. corporations operating in India as it expects for corporations operating in the U.S."

    Read more: Bhopal, BP Oil Spill: Two Disasters, Different Justice - TIME

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    Hall of Fame Member Cevno's Avatar
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    Bhopal gas tragedy: America's double standards, say some

    Hours after a verdict drove home the point that justice, after 25 years, is nowhere on the horizon of a city left gasping for breath, America's reaction to the sentence in the Bhopal gas tragedy seemed tactless, even insulting. US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake said, "I don't expect this verdict to reopen any new inquiries or anything like that. On the contrary, we hope that this is going to help to bring closure, to the victims and their families."

    The verdict was not unexpected. The court in Bhopal delivered the maximum sentence of two years in prison for eight Indian executives who faced charges of criminal negligence for the world's worst industrial disaster. Bail was granted immediately.

    Stung, India is now asking why a series of decisions by different governments and the Supreme Court allowed the case against Union Carbide to turn into one where the punishment is no greater than what's awarded for an ordinary road accident.

    And as politicians, investigating officials and former judges once involved with the case offer differing versions of why they're not to blame, many activists are looking outwards - to America - where the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is being dealt with so differently.

    President Barack Obama, criticised in different editorials for, initially not acting quickly or aggressively enough, spoke a different language on Monday.

    In an interview to NBC News' show "Today', Obama said he wanted to know "whose ass to kick" over the oil spill, adding that if BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward worked for him, he would have fired him by now over his response to the 50-day-old spill

    There is, to many Indians, especially those fighting for a quarter of a century for the rights of the Bhopal gas tragedy, much to envy and to counter, in the America on display for its own crisis versus Bhopal's.

    Eleven people were killed when British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in Gulf of Mexico. Close to 8000 died on the night of Dec 2 1984 in Bhopal, and in the years since then, the number has climbed to close to 20,000.

    The oil spill has caused extensive damage to marine life, birds and the US coastline in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. In Bhopal, 26 years after the gas leak, the soil and the water are still contaminated, with dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals, and thousands still suffering the aftereffects.

    British Petroleum has already paid 69 million dollars, just as first installment for the damages caused. That figure could multiply several times, with the company's liability still being decided. In contrast, Union Carbide paid just $ 470 million in compensation for the deaths it caused. That's less than $500 dollars per victim, insufficient even to cover medical treatment costs for those who survived.

    When asked about the possible extradition of Warren Anderson, the man who headed Union Carbide at the time of the Bhopal gas tragedy, America's stand was clear.

    "As a matter of policy, we never discuss extradition," said Robert Blake.

    A US court rejected a formal extradition request for Anderson in 2003, allegedly on the grounds that under US laws, only someone personally culpable for a crime can be extradited. Anderson did not fit the bill.

    In the case of British Petroleum, America is launching a criminal investigation that may lead to prosecution of top executives.

    Double standards, say many, who say America is avoiding its responsibilities in a case where the facts speak for themselves.


    Read more at: Bhopal gas tragedy: America's double standards, say some

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    International Coach PhoenixFire's Avatar
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    Doesn't Warren Anderson have some sort of international arrest warrant issued by the Indian courts?
    Quote Originally Posted by Top_Cat View Post
    1) Had double pneumonia as a kid, as did my twin sis. Doctors told my parents to pray that we lived through the night. Dad said **** off, I'm an atheist, you ****s better save my kids, etc. Then prayed anyway.

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    Hall of Fame Member Cevno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixFire View Post
    Doesn't Warren Anderson have some sort of international arrest warrant issued by the Indian courts?
    There is a warrant issued as as he is a proclaimed offender ,but US refuses to extradite him unless asked by their courts.
    The US government is now saying there will be no further enquiries on anderson and union carbide or on Dow chemicals.



    Anderson - untouchable, unrepentant and living a life of luxury

    By Stephen Foley in New York

    Tuesday, 8 June 2010

    When Greenpeace tracked down Warren Anderson to his luxury home in the Hamptons, outside New York, the former Union Carbide boss was hosing gravel from his car after a trip to a country club.

    The environmental group had been hunting him to hand over a symbolic copy of a warrant for his arrest but the confrontation brought a day in court no closer.

    This was in 2002, and while Indian employees of Union Carbide were yesterday convicted over the Bhopal disaster, Mr Anderson continues to live the "normal retired life" of the American chief executive.

    "Warren Anderson is not dodging due process," his attorney William Krohley told The Independent eight years ago. "He leads a normal retired life. He has places in Florida and New York where he resides. He plays golf every day, he socialises with people."

    In the aftermath of Bhopal, Mr Anderson accepted "moral responsibility" for the accident but was shocked to find himself arrested. US diplomatic pressure led to his being bailed, and although he agreed to co-operate with the Indian judicial process, he has never returned to the country, his extradition has never been vigorously pursued, and the trial of local executives was allowed to proceed separately.

    Furious residents and environmental campaigners believe that the Indian government has put commercial relations with the US above the task of seeking justice.

    Mr Anderson has always denied legal responsibility and said that a $470m settlement with the Indian government in 1989 was the end of the matter, yet his name continues to conjure anger and disgust, and will inevitably do so again when a movie of the disaster is released later this year. He is to be played by Martin Sheen unsympathetic, unrepentant.

    Anderson - untouchable, unrepentant and living a life of luxury - Americas, World - The Independent

    And yet they want to pursue executives of BP .


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    International Coach PhoenixFire's Avatar
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    It is a disgrace that so little has been done about what has happened in Bhopal. It's disgusting that the only reason not more has been done about it is because poor, Indian people were the ones that suffered, rather than anyone else. If the same thing had happened in America, there would have been blood spilled of the directors of Union Carbide.

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    Hall of Fame Member Cevno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixFire View Post
    It is a disgrace that so little has been done about what has happened in Bhopal. It's disgusting that the only reason not more has been done about it is because poor, Indian people were the ones that suffered, rather than anyone else. If the same thing had happened in America, there would have been blood spilled of the directors of Union Carbide.
    Agreed .
    The Indian governement in collusion with the US government really denied justice to the Bhopal gas victims.

    Just compare the compensation given by Union Carbide to the victims to the xompensation in the Exxon Valdez oil spill which happened a few years after.

    For each sea otter dead in that disaster the compensation given was more than thrice(nearly 4 times) of the compensation given to each Human that lost life in the Bhopal gas tragedy.
    The US govt also approved the sale of Union carbide without liability to dow chemicals which was unethcial. And then The indian government also allowed Dow chemicals to get hold of union carbide's indian subsidiary and then allowed them to operate in India.

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    Cricket Web: All-Time Legend Top_Cat's Avatar
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    Yeah, not really much to say is there? Union Carbide have essentially gotten away with manslaughter.

    Would like to say it was a different time but, tbh, you just need to see the dirty dealings of American companies in Africa and SE Asia to see that's bollocks.
    Last edited by Top_Cat; 08-06-2010 at 05:26 PM.
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