25 years after Bhopal: victims are still suffering and being ripped-off

December 3, 2009 at 7:18 pm (capitalism, hell, history, Human rights, india, Jim D)

Twenty five years ago Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India leaked lethal methal isocyanate which mixed with water and caused massive poisonous clouds to descend upon the sleeping population of the city.

3,000 people died in agony that night and over the next few days. According to Indian government figures about ten times that number have died since and a further 60,000 are permanently injured with respiratory illnesses, blindness and all manner of other ailments. Hundreds of survivors still attend pain relief clinics.

Union Carbide’s boss of Indian operations fled the country and has never faced justice. The US courts forced Union Carbide to pay out $470 million (a paltry figure given the number of victims) as a “final” settlement, but even now the survivors are being ripped off.

As the victims still campaign for justice in India and the US, the least we can do is to remember and honour them – and remember the worst example example of industrial capitalism’s contempt for human life (especially in the “third world”) outside of war.

(Thanks to Rajwinder Sahota in the Morning Star).

PS: Indra Sinha has a powerful, harrowing piece in the Graun (G2) that puts the immediate death count at 8,000 with more than 10,000 still chronically ill. He goes into devastating detail about the cost-cutting and contempt for elementary health and safety that caused the distaster, the disgraceful treatment of survivors, and the mental torment, birth defects and sheer physical pain that people are still experiencing:

“A quarter of a century later, Union Carbide and its owner, the Dow Chemical Company, which acquired it in 2001, still refuse to publish the results of studies into the effects of MIC. With or without these studies, 25 years of suffering prove that mass exposure to MIC destroys bodies, minds, families and a whole society.

“Abdul Mansuri speaks for thousands. ‘My breathing problems started after the gas and got worse and worse. I can truthfully say that I have never had a day’s health, or a day without pain, since ‘that night’.’ For some the pain, physical, mental, emotional, has been too much.

“Kailash Pawar was a young man. ‘My body is the support of my life,’ he said. ‘When my breathing is normal I feel like living. But when it becomes heavy, thinking stops and absolute pain takes over. I have become worthless.’ He was still in his 20s when he doused himself in kerosene and struck a match.

“Today in Bhopal, more than 100,000 people remain chronically ill.

“The compensation paid by Union Carbide, meant to last the rest of their lives, averaged some £300 a head: taken over 25 years that works out at around 7p a day, enough perhaps for a cup of tea.”


  1. Laban said,

    Totally off topic, Jim, but there are links up to all Steyn’s Johnny Mercer essays and a couple of musical podcasts of Mercer’s work with samples from k d lang to Bobby Darin.

    The links are here. The essays will disappear behind the paywall in a week or two if the past is any guide to the future.

    The ‘One For My Baby’ piece is fascinating.

    The text is Johnny Mercer, of course. But did you know he wrote it about Judy Garland? They’d been having one of those affairs that are born doomed. And, just as Mercer had finally decided to ask his wife Ginger for a divorce, Walter Winchell came on the radio and announced that Judy had eloped to Vegas with the composer and bandleader David Rose.

    You don’t need to know that to appreciate the song – the point of popular music is to take the specific and make it universal. But Mercer’s affair colors his approach to the lyric. Garland’s rising star would have been badly dented by revelations of an affair with an older married man, so Mercer was unable to talk about his great lost love – even in a song about getting a load off your chest. Instead, he wrote a song about talking about a lost love that never does actually talk about it:

    So set ’em up, Joe
    I got a little story
    You oughtta know…

    But the song never does tell us the “little story”. That’s its genius.

  2. Lobby Ludd said,

    “As the victims still campaign for justice in India and the US, the least we can do is to remember and honour them – and remember the worst example of industrial capitalism’s contempt for human life (especially in the “third world”) outside of war.”

    Right, of course, but doesn’t that show how low you can set the bar and still not make it. In the UK this is not an ‘issue’, it is not an ‘humanitarian issue’, it is not a ‘trade union issue’ and it is not a ‘socialist issue’.

  3. Top Blogging for the 7th December « Left Outside said,

    […] Shiraz Socialist discuss the Bhopal Gas disaster of just over 25 years ago. […]

  4. Babs said,

    NB: This article features links to a PDF that claims Ratan Tata (head of Tat industries, owner of Corus, whom readers will remember have recently shafted Teeside) kept lobbying the Indian Govt to go easy on poor *poor* Dow and Union Carbide

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