Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bhopal tragedy gasbags....

The luscious Liz Hurley dressed in a ''Low and Behold!" electric blue gown, certainly added the required oomph to a very classy fund raiser organised by Bapji Gajsinh, Maharajah of Jodhpur, for the Head and Neck Injuries Foundation that he heads. As charity events go, this was one of the best - understated, elegant and perfectly pitched to attract more well -heeled donors in future. Since I was seated to Bapji's left, and Liz to his right, there was a great deal of interesting cross talk, especially about her son Damien, all of 8, whose favourite word at the moment is 'sex' ( his amused mum revealed). I wish Damien had been at our table - he would have made a lively evening still livelier!!
**************
This appeared in Asian Age\Deccan Chronicle today....

All gas….. and too much tragedy.

Frankly, the only person coming out like a decent human being in the ongoing Bhopal trial court conviction of eight high profile people associated with the world’s worst industrial disaster, is veteran lawyer Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney General of India. I am sure he sleeps well at night and is able to look himself in the eye when he wakes up without cringing. He recently revealed how a prominent legal firm ( J.B.Dadachanji and Co ), tried to rope him in to defend what we all know was indefensible to begin with. They had most of the other top drawer lawyers like Nani Palkhiwala, Fali Nariman and Anil Diwan in their kitty by then. Soli flatly refused to jump on the bandwagon saying the victims of the disaster probably needed his advice far more! This was a brave decision which may have isolated him from the other legal brains who had signed on to represent Union Carbide and protect the interests of the American company. But that’s Soli.Always the Lone Ranger.There was nothing new about UCC’s strategy way back then. It is the same story today – any legally compromised corporation which is able to flaunt big bucks resorts to exactly the same trick - buy up the best legal brains in the Lawyer Supermarket and make sure the other side is starved of equally powerful representation. Such intimidatory tactics have been going on for decades, and New Delhi is full of these high profile hustlers who charge by the micro second, rarely read briefs and are the real power brokers in a town that thrives on little else but the exploitation of that elusive entity – power.

In such a cosy environment, where the Big Boys’ Club consists of ridiculously paid lawyers who reportedly fix any and every loophole in their clients’ favour, it is indeed reassuring to know at least one man from the same tribe did stand up when he had to and had the moral courage to say ‘No’. It has come to a stage when all a corporate crook needs to get away with blue murder ( in the Carbide case, literally so), is to hire the best legal eagles on the shelf – the whole lot ( cheaper by the dozen?) and then play the nasty waiting game. Our system is such, as the Bhopal issue has once again established. The world must be laughing at us – from 1984 to 2010, this is the ‘progress’ we have made. And look at the absurd outcome of that progress – Warren Anderson, the Union Carbide CEO who flew the coop with enviable ease right after 20,000 plus Indians had perished in the most blood curdling way, is busy enjoying his autumn years in the Hamptons where he lives a luxurious, retired life. He is a doddering old man now….no point in going after him. Besides, he knows and we know, America is hardly likely to let us get our hands on a person known as the Butcher of Bhopal. That was a given then , it is a given now – as we are discovering to our horror. Three days after the gas leak had effectively flattened the town, Anderson was given a great send off by the then chief minister Arjun Singh. Tapes and tv footage of that cowardly exit, show a cocky Anderson declaring, “ House arrest or no arrest, bail or no bail, I am free to go home. That is the law of the United States…. India, bye bye… thank you.” Such was the arrogance of the man, and the shameless complicity of the Indian administration, that cringe making visuals of that ignominious exit show our spineless policemen and other officials saluting this villain as he escaped his rightful punishment in India and flew back home to freedom.

The question to ask is : What has changed today, if anything? It still works in the same nauseating way. Is anything further going to be done to the desi directors who are out on bail? Not a chance. They must have laughed at the ridiculousness of it all, when they had to put in a mandatory appearance in court recently before climbing into their individual limos and rushing off to the nearest club for a gin-and-tonic to calm those nerves. These men fall into the ‘pillars of society’ category – they are well- respected individuals with impeccable social pedigrees. But the fact remains a court has found them guilty ( so what if the verdict was delivered twenty-six years after the crime was committed?). They still remain convicted men who are out on bail. Just like other criminals. The nature of their crime is monumental and repugnant. But what they and their mighty lawyers must be banking on right now is the great advantage that delayed justice provides to perpetrators of unspeakably gruesome crimes in our country. Wearing down victims is just a small part of the overall strategy. And if the families of those who lost their loved ones experience a deep sense of frustration, helplessness and rage, well, too bloody bad. This is India – have money, will win. No matter how serious the crime – and in the Carbide case, the world agrees it can’t get any more heinous or callous. But what does anybody care? Pitiful compensation is supposed to take care of the emotional loss suffered by these people, who have battled on for so many years in the hope their wounds will finally be healed once the criminals are brought to justice. Now, even that hope which has kept them going for so long is dwindling rapidly. They must watch the nightly buck passing taking place brazenly across tv channels and save their tears in sheer disbelief. Arjun Singh says one thing, Arun Singh , another. While even mentioning Rajiv Gandhi in passing is seen as sacrilege. This is the sorry environment we foster – whether it is probing the IPL scandal or providing justice to the Bhopal gas tragedy victims.
Soon, even this will become a dead story. The engineered fury of a few will vanish just as soon as it manifested itself. The men who were prosecuted will nonchalantly continue their golf and gin- tonic routines, safe in the knowledge kuch nahi hoga.
And the ageing Warren Anderson will eventually die a peaceful death in the Hamptons…. unlike the over twenty thousand Indians who weren’t as lucky when they gasped their last breaths in distant Bhopal twenty six years ago.
Union Carbidewallon ko saat khoon nahi balki bees hazaar khoon maaf! Wah India wah!!

24 comments:

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

Wah India wah!! - ?????

Kamlesh said...

Good Morning! I just loved your post on 70's mumbai...keep writing more ..i am really looking forward to your posts :) http://bit.ly/9XUqtp

Sushant Kumar said...

I am just speechless.

Ramanathan said...

A very good article to be read by every Indian

彥安 said...

I guess I will need a lot.................................................................

Ramanathan said...

According to Thuglag issue of 15.12.1984,, when the issue was raised in MP Assembly by an opposition leader, the Minister concerned arrogantly told that the factory cannot beshifted. Indian Express of 5.12.84 says had the warning given 1982 been heeded, this would have been prevented. The Labour Minister Dhara Singh had said that the factory which carried an investment of of Rs.25 crores is not a stone to be shifted and there would not be any danger to Bhopal, he assured.

Ramanathan said...

Ever since the factory was started, there had been ccidents every year. One Mohmd.Ashras, operator died in an accident on 26.12.1981. Another gas leak happened 15 days thereafter where 24 people were affected but escaped death. 5th Oct. 1982 saw four workers were affected Immediately onknowing the gas leak, some people had run away.In 1983 two more workers were affected.

Ramanathan said...

A/c to the Thuglag Tamil magazine, the guest house at Shyamala Hills wasalways at the disposal of Arjun Singh apat from other Ministers during a Congress session in MP. One Vijay Gupta, the legal advisor was a Congress worker. The PRO was Narasinga Rao Dikshit. In 1975 the Municipal Executive Officer Mr.M.N.Pooch gave a notice for removal of the factory. Before he took the next step, he was transferred. That is the contribution of the deotees of various Gandhis right from Mahatma to Indira. Yet they shamelessly contest elections as if this country has no leaders from other parties.which is unfortunate.

goodluck said...

There is a saying that the dog barked 6 months after the thieves left. After 26 years, all this barking does not help. The urgent need is compensate the real victims with an amount aircrash victims get. And a well equipped hospital devoted to only gas victims and their children with free treatment for life. And other concessions. Where are the Ambanis who build hospitals only for the super rich? Why cant they show some real charity? Those who are after Anderson must also know something about vicarious liablity. In banks so many scams take place and the CEO remains intact. Only those directly involved in negligence are punished. Instead of spending crores on futile chases and commissions of enquiries, let that amount be spent for the victims supervised by reputable media heads and NHRC and WHO.

goodluck said...

So many grammatical mistakes. Sorry.

krish said...

wha wha.....great article and so true.....irrespective of geting freedom nothing changed for the poor and socialy backward we have a fedual democracy.....

Vivek Patwardhan said...

I respectfully differ with you about Soli Sorabjee. Thsi is what Frontline [current issue] states in their article Legal Paradox:
"According to S. Muralidhar, then a Supreme Court advocate (now a judge in the Delhi High Court), Sorabjee advised wrongly that the reasoning of the Supreme Court in the Keshub Mahindra case in 1996 would apply to Anderson as well. Justice Muralidhar wrote this in a report, prepared for the Fact-Finding Mission on Bhopal in October 2004, before his appointment as a judge. This report was subsequently published as a Working Paper by the International Environmental Law Research Centre, New Delhi. (The paper, ‘Unsettling Truths, Untold Tales', can be downloaded at www.ielrc.org/content/ww0405.pdf).

Sorabjee had opined that any extradition request for Anderson would have to be limited to Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code (causing death by rash and negligent act) under which a maximum sentence of just two years' imprisonment could be awarded compared with 10 years' imprisonment for the offence of culpable homicide.

In Sorabjee's view, the offence of causing death by rash or negligent act is covered by the offence of manslaughter referred to in Article 3 of the Extradition Treaty, and the evidence collected did not appear to be sufficient at that time. Both Sorabjee and a U.S. Solicitors' firm, M/s Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, Chartered, whom the Government of India consulted, shared the view that there were missing evidentiary links regarding the knowledge of Anderson about the cause of the gas leak, and without these links the Indian government would not be able to convince a U.S. court about its case for extradition. Sorabjee wrote in his opinion on August 6, 2001, that he was not sanguine that at the end of the day the requisite evidentiary material would be forthcoming. According to him, Anderson's age of 81 years (in 2001) and the lapse of 17 years since the disaster were weighty and relevant considerations for the U.S. State Department to refuse India's request for his extradition. Therefore, he advised the government not to pursue the extradition of Anderson.

However, in an interview to this correspondent in 2001 ( Frontline, January 18, 2002), Sorabjee not only conceded that the 1996 Supreme Court judgment in the Keshub Mahindra case would not apply to Anderson but regretted that he advised the Government of India not to pursue the extradition of Anderson. More important, he said that his opinion did not bar the government from pursuing the extradition, if it wanted to."
What say you?
Vivek

Anil Kumar said...

In the judiciary system you can buy witness, you can get lawyers that find loopholes in the system to allow you to go free and state police will do shoddy investogation to favour you.

The judiciary system is worst than Taleban or Khap Panchayat. In Taliban or Khap Panchayat the justice is IMMEDIATE (right or wrong) while in Judiciary system (left by Britishers) majority of people die a SLOW and PAINFUL death and the time taken to finish a case KILLS a person many times during the course of trial.

siddhartha said...

very well written.the piece depicted the prevailing anarchy in the democratic country!

Sadiya said...

so neat...and so true!

Sidhusaaheb said...

It might be useful to mention here that even Keshub Mahindra is 85 years old now.

Divya Virmani said...

Cost of poor: Dead bodies sold for Rs. 1 lakh. Injured sold for Rs. 25,000. ‘Rich gets richer and poor gets poorer’. National anthem of our country. Our country can never change when it comes to the cries of poor. As they have no say in anything. http://divyavirmani.blogspot.com/2010/06/cost-of-poor-dead-bodies-sold-for-rs-1.html

Philip said...

I have seen you many times on TV and hold your ideas and your line of enquiry in high regards. Lately, after the Bhopal verdict the media has once again picked up the issue and rightly so. My perspective on this is this.
We seem to be dwelling too much on the negative. Attention is largely focussed on the issue of Warren Anderson and DOW. Arnab the other day spent an hour discussing Anderson and DOW. This will get us nowhere. Although these are important, they are only the second half of the problem. They really take the focus away from the real issue- that of tackling the issues of helping those is need- monetary compensation, clean up and so on. Everyone wants Anderson extradited and DOW to pay up, whereas the immediate necessity is to start the work on the ground which has been held up for 26 years. It will be several years before any more compensation will be available (if at all) and mind you bringing Anderson back (if that is possible) will only be a satisfaction of the ego. We have culprits at home who have been found guilty ( and who should be getting a harsher sentence) and no one is talking about them. I call this the cobweb thinking in India, where we are unable to think beyond and outside of a certain point to resolve issues. It is precisely this approach to thinking which has delayed the response in Bhopal for so many years. Our way of thinking leads us into ' why things cannot be done' instead of ' how they can and should be done'. Even if DOW were to pay up what will be the end result? What have we to show for the $470 million from Union Carbide? I think the GOM has taken the right decision to provide the money and this should be welcome. Our response should be, 'good, lets now get started'. Relief and other work should start immediately. We can later bill whoever we think is responsible. I see several activists of Bhopal tragedy whose job they think is to creat issues but they come with no real solutions. Let us finally turn this tragedy into an opportunity of service and help to our fellow Indians. They have waited for 26 years.
Thanks for your time.
Dr. Philip Dayal

ms said...

alas, mz de. anderson is as guilty as gandhi and jinnah are for the partition related deaths (6 million), or as mamata is for the naxal related deaths (more than 500 at the last count), or the current govts of both countries are for the 26/11 related deaths. what will we do if we decide that after orders (1)to move the factory away from the city environs(2)to demolish illegal houses on the periphery of the factory(3)to bring strict actions against all those employees who caused numerous accidents pre-1984(4)to punishing all the govt officials who saw a disaster in the making and looked the other way: all these were ignored by the people of the state and city, that we are somehow also responsible for the 20,000 deaths of fellow indians, will the citizens pay the victims of the gas tragedy? i don't remember any fund raising by the hundreds of indian-run charities in the aftermath of this disaster. i don't remember any celebrity involvement in helping the victims. what i am understanding from the national bloodthirsty demand for anderson's life is this: thousands of indians get away with the murder of thousands of indians in india and we are ok with it. but as soon as we smell green (especially US green!), we are an outraged nation demanding justice for our beloved people! going by the current payments our own beloved govt gives for an indian life, union carbide should give about Rs 5 lakh for every death in 1984 and Rs 1 lakh to the dependents of the 20,000 dead who were around in 1984. that works out to be roughly US$218m for the dead and another 100m for the survivors. which is a total of US$318m. if every indian exisiting in india today paid a measly Rs15 each towards the compensation for the tragedy, we would have collected US$318m. such a shame that we are a nation of beggars. but, never mind! each nation has a talent, china in producing excellent material goods, singapore for cleanliness, dubai for breathtaking buildings, france for wines. and we do what we know best. c'est la vie!

SAHIL said...

http://www.care2.com/my/petitionsite/dashboard/516054790
stop cold drink and that too adulterated one.
forwards this link to others.
dont get guided by few multi nationalo monsters.

Bharat said...

I read your articles every week, and sometimes feel good too (not always when u use street language), yes this article made feel proud of me for spending time on your writings.
Thx.

Shireen said...

Were you not aware, Ms. De, while writing this article,that among those whom you refer to as "desi directors" with their "golf and gin and tonic routines" as you put it, there is one man who really and truly is a "pillar of society" and much more? You must also be aware therefore that Keshub Mahindra, one of the seven accused, was a non executuve chairman of UCIL at that time, who had absolutely no managerial role as a full time employer and therefore legally should not even be involved. Apart from that you obviously dont seem to be bothered enough to read about what respected authorities on the subject have to say about this,- such as Omkar Goswami, in his article The Case for Legal Sanity
publishd in the Businessworld issue of 5.07.2010.
So the fact that you have written this about a group of persons among whom, as you know very well is such an outstanding gentleman, is not only unfair, but shameful and unpardonable.One would expect this sort of thing from a cheap sensationalist writer whose sole purpose is to evoke scandal.Therefore the fact that you have stooped so low, especially as you know him well, just goes to show that you are willing to go to any length just to write your juicy little piece. You are free to write what you want, but not so when it involves such serious accusations about such a respectable person. The very least you can do therefore is immediately clarify your position and apologise as any self respecting writer would do.

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