People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 48

November 29, 2009



Commemorate 25th Anniversary of Bhopal Gas Tragedy



ON December 2-3, 2004, one of the world�s biggest industrial disasters in the Indian city of Bhopal killed over 20,000 people and caused serious injuries to over 500,000 people. Repercussions continue to be felt today, even 25 years afterwards, in the endless suffering of surviving victims, scant provision of health care and neglect of proper rehabilitation. But equally important, particularly for preventing future such tragedies in India or other developing countries, larger issues raised by the Bhopal Gas Tragedy continue to haunt the world, especially under imperialist globalisation and the neo-liberal economic policy framework that have since become predominant.

The criminal culpability of the US-based MNC, Union Carbide Corporation or UCC, was clearly established by the absence of safety features and other technologies in the Bhopal plant compared with the factory run by the parent company in West Virginia, USA. UCC, since taken over by Dow Chemicals, has got away with paying out petty compensation amounting to around $1200 for each person killed and $550 for each injured victim through a settlement entered into between UCC and the Indian Government which was pressured into dropping criminal charges against UCC. Only continuous struggle by progressive forces and peoples organisations both in India and abroad forced the re-launching of prosecution in India. Yet, Warren Anderson, then chairman of UCC, continues to abscond from Indian courts despite having been declared a proclaimed offender and the US continues to protect him from extradition. UCC continues to evade criminal liability and Dow Chemicals, which took it over, has ensured for itself immunity under various provisions of a spurious international legal framework designed to protect corporate interests against that of the wider public. Dissatisfied with even such mild penalties, and specifically quoting US experience in the Bhopal case, the US is today insisting on India signing a �limited liability� agreement for importation of nuclear power plants from the US in the eventuality of an accident!

This entire chain of events, as well as the series of acts of collusion between the US-based MNC behemoth and governments of the USA and India, have thoroughly exposed the true face of global capitalism.

Predatory MNCs based in the US, Europe or other countries of the global North today are running rampant in developing countries, in flagrant violation of domestic and international laws on industrial safety, hazardous and toxic materials and environmental pollution. Hazardous industries, sub-standard or obsolete technologies, banned or toxic materials, environmentally disastrous extractive industries, are all increasingly being thrust upon countries of the global South, even while the latter are prevented from developing their own self-reliant capabilities. Legal and regulatory frameworks in these countries are subverted by imposing neo-liberal policies favouring foreign investment and MNCs, often aided by the IMF, World Bank and other multilateral agencies that champion such policies. Multilateral trade agreements such as WTO and GATT are also being used by US imperialism and its allies to arm-twist developing countries into aligning their domestic policies with global corporate interests.

The aftermath of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy has brought to the fore many issues relating to industrial licensing and regulation of hazardous industries, technological self-reliance, policy and regulatory frameworks for import of technologies, role of MNCs, legislation and enforcement of legal and regulatory frameworks of liability for environmental pollution and industrial accidents, industrial siting and urban development, policies on agriculture especially use of agro-chemicals etc.

Communist Parties of the world call upon progressive forces all over the world to commemorate the 25th year of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and to focus national and international attention on the role of MNCs, on efforts by the global North to impose their technological on developing countries, and on the framework of neo-liberal economic policies that characterise imperialist globalisation today.