The Bhopal massacre

If there has been one story of a mass murder by a corporation then it  is without doubt Bhopal! Need not mention that it is not the ‘system‘ that is responsible. All over Europe the maximum permissible storage limit for MIC (methyl isocyanate) is half a ton. At the Bhopal plant, the US company’s management overrode the wishes of the managers of its Indian subsidiary and kept the storage capacity hazardously high at over 90 tons! On the night of the disaster, 67 tons of MIC were stored in two tanks. They also decided to reduce operational costs by drastically cutting down maintenance personnel.

The management at the Bhopal plant was led by Warren Anderson. That bastard had ordered his staff to switch off the refrigeration unit to save about Rs.700 per day. Had the refrigeration unit been working, a runaway reaction in the MIC tank could have been delayed or even prevented. Experts prescribed fortnightly inspection of valves, pipes and pumps dealing with the corrosive chemicals. At Carbide’s Bhopal plant, inspections were rare and replacements often not made for up to 2 years! Also included in the cost cutting measures was the reduction in the workforce in the Bhopal factory – brought down by half from 1980-84. The work crew for the MIC plant was cut by half from 12 to 6 workers, the maintenance crew in the same plant reduced from 6 to 2 workers. In the control room, there was only 1 operator who was expected to monitor 70-odd panels, indicators and controllers on the console. The period of safety training to workers in MIC plant was brought down from 6 months to 15 days!

As expected, the leak happened! What happened next? The management of the Carbide plant came to know about the leak at 11:00 pm. The factory alarm meant for workers was started by a desperate worker at 12:50 pm. The management not only turned it off within minutes but also delayed the sounding of the public siren until as late as 2:00pm by which time all the gas had leaked. On the night of the disaster when people poured into hospitals by thousands, their eyes and lungs in burning choking agony, and urine and faeces running down their legs, the doctors called up the Plant Medical Officer to find out what they ought to do. They were told that the gas is like tear gas. “Just wash with water!”

Bhopal was not an accident! It never had been! This was the inevitable climax of the capitalist’s cynical disregard for human life in a third world country. This was the greatest ‘mass murder’ in recent times where no one was punished.


8 responses to “The Bhopal massacre

  1. And it killed twice as many people as 9/11, not counting effects of much later.
    And, as Indra Sinha notes in his brilliant book Animal’s People, the victimsdon’t particularly care anymore.

    However, I thik the non-sentence is doing something. Today, the government informed the minister group of its opinion that Dow ought to pay.
    Chidambaram and another joker wanted to waive its responsibility because it was willing to heavily invest in India. Which would be worth considering if one paisa of that was likely to go to a poor person.
    Oh, and guess who Chidambaram thinks should pay for the Bhopal victims instead of Dow? The Indian private sector!

    Like Ramachandra Guha said, India is a country bent on colonising itself.

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