ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Accountability Is the Issue

Wiping out the memories of December 2, 1984 when thousands of people died in Bhopal due to the leakage of a lethal gas from the Union Carbide plant there is an impossible task for anyone who experienced the horrors of that night in one way or another. But that is precisely what the governments of India and Madhya Pradesh have been endeavouring to do in the last 17 years, forcing the thousands of survivors to fight battles of all sorts – legal and political – to secure recompense and redressal for physical and social injuries from the disaster. Just as importantly, the victims of what has been termed the world’s worst industrial disaster have been fighting to ensure that multinational companies accept their international liability for damages they cause in any country of their operation. So far in none of the major disasters that have taken place – whether Seveso in Italy or DES – have MNCs, while they have paid compensation, been legally compelled to accept responsibility for the damages.

Wiping out the memories of December 2, 1984 when thousands of people died in Bhopal due to the leakage of a lethal gas from the Union Carbide plant there is an impossible task for anyone who experienced the horrors of that night in one way or another. But that is precisely what the governments of India and Madhya Pradesh have been endeavouring to do in the last 17 years, forcing the thousands of survivors to fight battles of all sorts legal and political to secure recompense and redressal for physical and social injuries from the disaster. Just as importantly, the victims of what has been termed the worlds worst industrial disaster have been fighting to ensure that multinational companies accept their international liability for damages they cause in any country of their operation. So far in none of the major disasters that have taken place whether Seveso in Italy or DES have MNCs, while they have paid compensation, been legally compelled to accept responsibility for the damages.

Survivors of the Bhopal disaster registered a small triumph last month when the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a substantial number of the decisions of New Yorks Southern District Court judge John F Keenan who in August last had dismissed the victims class action suit. The fact that the appellate court has affirmed the environmental damage claims means that the government of India can no longer ignore the persistent environmental damage caused by Union Carbide, whose liabilities are now to be borne by Dow Chemicals. It also makes possible access to corporate documents of Union Carbide detailing environmental safety guidelines and their enforcement and monitoring in the factory in Bhopal.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Or

To gain instant access to this article (download).


Pay
INR 59

(Readers in India)


Pay
$ 6

(Readers outside India)

Support Us

Your Support will ensure EPW’s financial viability and sustainability.

The EPW produces independent and public-spirited scholarship and analyses of contemporary affairs every week. EPW is one of the few publications that keep alive the spirit of intellectual inquiry in the Indian media.

Often described as a publication with a “social conscience,” EPW has never shied away from taking strong editorial positions. Our publication is free from political pressure, or commercial interests. Our editorial independence is our pride.

We rely on your support to continue the endeavour of highlighting the challenges faced by the disadvantaged, writings from the margins, and scholarship on the most pertinent issues that concern contemporary Indian society.

Every contribution is valuable for our future.