A world full of oxymorons…
Isn’t it? You see them all over the news these days….stuff like “American restraint” in Iraq, “military intelligence” and so on….well here’s one more for the list…Corporate Morality.
Why do I talk of it ? Flash back to 20 years ago, on December 03, 1984…in a remote area surrounded by slums, a large vat starts leaking methyl isocyanate gas into the air…27 tons of the deadly gas drift in the surrounding area. None of the six safety systems designed to contain such a leak were operational, allowing the gas to spread throughout the city of Bhopal.
Half a million people were exposed to the gas and 20,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments caused by the accident and the subsequent pollution at the plant site. These ailments include blindness, extreme difficulty in breathing, and gynecological disorders. The site has never been properly cleaned up and it continues to poison the residents of Bhopal. In 1999, local groundwater and wellwater testing near the site of the accident revealed mercury at levels between 20,000 and 6 million times those expected. Cancer and brain-damage- and birth-defect-causing chemicals were found in the water; trichloroethene, a chemical that has been shown to impair fetal development, was found at levels 50 times higher than EPA safety limits.
Testing published in a 2002 report revealed poisons such as 1,3,5 trichlorobenzene, dichloromethane, chloroform, lead and mercury in the breast milk of nursing women. These poisons arise due to reaction of the gas with substances commonly present in nature.
In 2001, Michigan-based chemical corporation Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide, thereby acquiring its assets and liabilities. However Dow Chemical has steadfastly refused to clean up the site, provide safe drinking water, compensate the victims, or disclose the composition of the gas leak, information that doctors could use to properly treat the victims. It claimed zero liabilty towards the victims. Their argument is that the slums should not have been there in the first place in an industrial zone.
And now the morality part, I just saw BBC World, where a spokesperson from Dow Chemical informed the news service that Dow has accepted full and complete responsibility for the accident on behalf of Union Carbide. They will dissove the 12 billion dollar Union Carbide company and fully compensate the victims, AND clean up the area with proper detoxification protocols. The reason – “simply because its the right thing to do.” , says th e spokesperson.
Am I too cynical if I think that Dow has something else going on …I find it hard to beleive that Union Carbide is being dissolved because its the right thing. Why after 20 years ? Why now ? Its not like we could do anything about it as a country.
But wait, there is more, Dow will actually push for the extradition of the then In-charge of Union Carbide, who after depositiong a bail with the Indian Government roughly to the amount of USD 2000 , later fled the country, and is currently settled in Long Island , USA.
All this goodness from the Corporate offices of Dow and Union Carbide seems awfully fishy! In fact, check out Union Carbide’s website on the Bhopal tragedy, they still claim no liability there Bhopal.com.
They expect us to beleive that they are doing this because its “the right thing to do”.
Could it be that the holiday season and Christmas cheer is warming their hearts ?
… I think not.