Dow is paying out for Union Carbide liabilities in the US

July 4, 2010

In the Times of India:

Here is something for legal eagles of the government of India to chew on: while Dow Chemical Company denies any responsibility for damages caused by Union Carbide in Bhopal, it has taken over all liability of Carbide for fighting out over 75,000 asbestos related law suits in the US. Dow/Carbide expects to incur liability costs of $839 million in the coming years. They have already spent a whopping $687 million in litigation costs, besides paying out $1,480 million to an unspecified number of claimants till date. Carbide became a subsidiary of Dow through a merger in 2001.

These facts, gleaned from the mandatory annual filing (Form 10-k) for 2009 submitted by Dow to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the US on February 19, 2010, clearly establish that Dow has taken over Union Carbide liabilities for bodily damages caused by the latter’s commercial activities. In the case of Bhopal, Dow has consistently claimed that it had nothing to do with the massive gas leak disaster of December 3, 1984 in the pesticide plant run by Union Carbide.

Read the article here.

[Link via @BhopalMedAppeal]

The Conscience of Capitalism

June 22, 2010

Arun Maira in Forbes India

At a meeting in Sweden recently of young people from around the world, a Nigerian woman shared the grief of her people. She said that, every year for the past 20 years, large quantities of oil, as much as that leaking into the Gulf of Mexico from the broken BP oil rig, have been spilling in her country from an MNC’s leaking pipelines and broken rigs. The waterways have become completely contaminated. The waters are so oily they even burn! Water for drinking and bathing is hard to come by. The health of the people has been badly affected. There are no more fish to catch. Agriculture is impossible. Livelihoods are destroyed. The US media is full of anger with BP for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She sympathised with the people of Louisiana whose concerns are known to the whole world now, but she wondered if they even knew what had been happening in Nigeria all these years?
The Indian media is filled with anger with Union Carbide and the tragedy of Bhopal. When a rare brown pelican was smothered in oil in Louisiana, the US President said he was looking for someone’s ass to kick in BP. The people of Bhopal, where thousands of human beings were killed, ask the Indian government why no one’s ass has been kicked.

Read the whole thing

Bhopal remembered [BBC radio]

June 16, 2010

Author Indra Sinha reflects on the conviction of seven people following the 1984 Bhopal disaster, where a leak of poisonous gas from a pesticide factory killed and maimed thousands of people. Listen.

Sunday Guardian photo essay

June 16, 2010

The Sunday Guardian “exposes the Bhopal tragedy – pics captured by Raghu Rai which exposes the lies and betrayal denying the impoverished victims even the most minimum compensation through a cover up in which the government, the Supreme Court, the bureaucracy and the police participated.”
There’s a link to a PDF of a page from the photo essay (1.63 mb) on MJ Akbar’s site.

Pass the methyl isocyanate, please [Business Standard]

June 16, 2010

From Mitali Saran’s column, Stet:

Hear ye, o people of India: don’t think you can get away with really bad stuff, because the long arm of the law will reach out and bring you to trial and give you what you deserve. In Bhopal the law heard 178 prosecution witnesses on the stand talk about the estimated 25,000 people who have died or suffered from methyl isocyanate poisoning and its after-effects since 1984; it heard eight defence witnesses mutter darkly about sabotage; it examined 3,000-odd documents; it fast-tracked the whole thing so that only one of the accused died in the process. The law weighed up the evidence, decided the accused were guilty, and then fearlessly sentenced them to the legal equivalent of a wedgie.

Do you really want a wedgie, o people of India?

Read the whole thing.

Games big corporations play [The Hindu]

June 16, 2010

P Sainath in The Hindu:

Yet, the notion that the main injustice to Bhopal is the failure to extradite then UCC chief Warren Anderson from America is mildly ridiculous. Trying to evade the lessons the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster threw up on the tyranny of giant corporations is completely so. Well over two decades after its MIC gas slaughtered 20,000 (mostly very poor) human beings, Bhopal still pays the price of Carbide’s criminality. (Evident from the long-term impact on the health of the gas-affected. And from the poisoned soil and water around the former Carbide plant.) While the Indian government’s appalling Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, if adopted, would give legal cover to such conduct across the country.

Bhopal marked the horrific beginning of a new era. One that signalled the collapse of restraint on corporate power. The ongoing BP spill in the Mexican Gulf — with estimates ranging from 30,000-80,000 barrels a day — tops off a quarter-of-a-century where corporations could (and have) done anything in the pursuit of profit, at any human cost. Barack Obama’s ‘hard words’ on BP are mostly pre-November poll-rants. The BP can take a lot of comfort from two U.S. Supreme Court judgments in the past two years.

[Read the whole thing.]

Emergency causing emergency

June 16, 2010

Annie Zaidi

Who knows what one swift decision might lead to?

I wonder if those who grant licenses to chemical industries can even picture the possibilities contained within those factories where hazardous chemical compounds are being manufactured. I know I couldn’t have imagined it – boxes of inanimate matter leading to deaths and birth defects even at a generation’s remove… and all it takes is a signature on a piece of paper. A license, a clearing of bureaucratic hurdles, a dismissal of all fears about pollution. A paper – whether in triplicate or not – got signed. And then thousands and thousands of dead mutilated bodies.
Read the rest of this entry »

Hark, The Evening Language Of The Poor (Tehelka)

June 16, 2010

Indra Sinha in Tehelka:

It was always about powerful people and hidden motives. Since the verdict, and the public howl of rage, some of these characters have been emerging, like the slug, into the light. Justice Ahmadi, who in 1996 diluted charges against the Indian accused, asks why, if he was wrong, did the CBI not challenge him for 14 years? All those years Bhopal campaigners asked the same thing and got no answer. Now BR Lall, former Director of the CBI, reveals that he was ordered in writing by the Ministry of External Affairs not to try too hard to extradite Anderson. When asked why he did not speak out before, he said, ‘About the hawala case I wrote a book, I made all the evidence public. So what is so great that about every case that I should go to public?’

What is so great? Twenty thousand dead? Half a million affected? One lakh still seriously ill?

In July 2004, a US intelligence agent in Mumbai reported to Washington that Indian ministers, for political reasons, would pretend to be pro-extradition. Other documents show that the US Departments of Justice and State colluded with Carbide’s public relations people and Indian authorities on a strategy for saving Anderson. “Hope it works,” one judicial officer remarked.

Read the whole thing.

‘Justice’ for Bhopal is just political farce (M J Akbar in the TOI)

June 14, 2010

From M J Akbar’s column in the Times of India:

Delhi has set the gold standard for cynicism. It operates on four axioms: public memory is a dwarf; anger is effervescent; media can be massaged at the appropriate moment; any public crisis can be assuaged with crumbs, while the promotion of private interests continues off-screen.

Jairam Ramesh’s promise of a Green Tribunal in Bhopal is a classical instance of a crumb dipped in the pickle of hypocrisy. Where was this or any other tribunal in the last 26 years when the dead, the deformed and blind babies and the stillborn fetuses were a reminder that justice must be done? Or is this tribunal meant for the next onslaught by the dogs of chemical war upon the sleeping slums of Bhopal? Who was Veerappa Moily trying to fool when he claimed that the case against Warren Anderson had not been closed? Why doesn’t he keep the case open for a few more years, until God closes the chapter by taking Anderson away to whichever destination has been allotted to the butcher of Bhopal? A Group of Ministers has been appointed — merely to buy time until the return of amnesia.

Read the whole thing.

Calling Delhi

June 12, 2010

Saturday, 12 June 2010
16:00 – 19:00
Jantar Mantar

Join us for an Evening of songs of Freedom and Justice !

After 26 years and nearly two generations of untold sufferings, nightmares, pain, trauma, lost livelihoods and a historic fight for justice from Bhopal to all across the world the verdict is : to two years imprisonment and a fine of Rs. one lakh each under section 304(a), imprisonment of 3 months and a fine of Rs.250 under Sec 336, 6 months and Rs.500 under Sec 337 and 2 years and Rs.1,000 under Sec 338; all the sentences to run concurrently and UCIL to pay a paltry 5 Lakh rupees.

It’s shame for the judicial system and another blot on the secular, socialist democratic traditions of the country. It’s an insult to those who died, continue to die and rubs salt to unhealed wounds of those survived and who have struggled in face of unsurmountable odds for all these years. The citizens of Delhi and the whole country are enraged at this travesty of justice and petty politicking which has marred the worst industrial disaster in human history.

We call upon you all to join for an evening to express yourself on the streets of Jantar Mantar in words, verses, banners, posters, poems, songs or actions… we will perform a die-in action too demanding justice in Bhopal and light candles in memory of those who died and salute to those who continue to struggle and suffer. Let us join hands and stand up for justice in Bhopal.

If you’re on Facebook, the event page is here.

Leave a comment here if you’re organising, or know of, events elsewhere.

Nothing and nothing and nothing

June 12, 2010

Annie Zaidi

I spent some time on the Bhopal website. They have a timeline tool. It shows you a page crowded with information on what happened during the gas tragedy in December 1984. On the right, there is a horizontal bar with forward/backward arrows in neon green. I clicked on the forward arrow.

There was nothing. And nothing. And nothing. And nothing.

Then there was something, a little something. In 1989. Criminal charges against Carbide. Then a little further on, in 1991, the Supreme Court review of the Carbide settlement. Then, in 1992, the reopening of the criminal liability case. Then in 1993, Union Carbide and Warren Anderson were declared ‘absconders’ from the law.

And then nothing. And nothing. And nothing. All the way to now, and nothing.
Read the rest of this entry »

No More Bhopals

June 12, 2010

Deepti Khera and Ritu Jhingran

(Published in the Annual Magazine-Redefining Limits SCM batch 2009-2010. Reprodcued here courtesy Deepti Khera)

On December 4, 1984 the city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh witnessed an extraordinary exodus. Every train, every bus, every vehicle leaving the city was packed with people. For in the early hours of the morning, over 40 tonnes of deadly methyl isocyanate, and other poisonous gases such as hydrogen cyanide, leaked from a pesticide factory, owned and run by the Union Carbide Corporation, USA, now Dow Chemicals.

Naturally, the trains coming into the city were almost empty. But on board one of them was Sathinath Sarangi, better known as Sathyu, who had been taking a break from the rigours of a PhD in engineering, in his village, Paliyapitariya,in Oshangabad district.Sarangi says, “I heard of the Bhopal gas tragedy on the radio. I immediately decided to visit Bhopal. It was simply out of curiosity to know what was happening in the city. I decided to go there for a week. But what I saw that day was much more terrible than what I heard on the radio. People were wandering down the road with swollen eyes, tears streaming from them. Many were hobbling as if in pain. Some had fallen down and found it impossible to get up.”
Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Not A Bhopali Just Yet

June 10, 2010

Manjul Bajaj

Today I woke up to a strange conundrum
Am I a Bhopali or am I not
It takes a few seconds to say I am one
on a Facebook page
And it costs nothing
But I can’t bring myself to –
at least not yet
I know Facebook is good and Twitter is better
To reach out to people and
get them to care about causes that matter
But I can’t bring myself to –
at least not just yet.

It costs nothing and is simple to do
As simple as pressing a button which
says I AM A DUDE
As costless as a tarot reading
Or consulting Anita the online psychic
Not as entertaining as playing Poker
or Scrabble
but better perhaps than that
Farmville thing
But I can’t bring myself to –
at least not yet

“Oh stop being such an insufferable prig”
A little voice whispers
and I try not to shout back at it
The numbers and the statistics –
The full magnitude of the disaster
The complete travesty of justice made
For I know, I know these numbers only
because of an invite to that FB page
So I decide I will join cause
Press that button on that FB page
But I can’t bring myself to –
at least not yet.

First, I’ll take a few minutes
and write out a cheque
I know money is not everything
It will not bring back the dead
Or make us citizens of another nation
where justice is subverted less
But money’s language is less ambiguous
It says I am sorry for your pain
And sorry for my own helplessness
in the face of it
In the complex arithmetic of my life
This is the number I have been able to put
to our brotherhood
It is little but I hope that somewhere
it will all add up

So for the moment
I am not a Bhopali,
not just quite yet
I’m just an old fashioned woman
trying to make my way around
supporting causes
in a new fangled world.
But I do hope to get there soon.

Dear Mr Obama

June 10, 2010

Dear Mr Obama

This is my first letter to you. I have to confess, I didn’t much care when you won the election. It may have been history in the making but it was American history and I live too far away to care. I didn’t wear Obama T-shirts. I didn’t read the book. I didn’t buy the ‘Change’. Call me cynical. Goes with the job description.

But today, I feel compelled to write to you. You’re having a problem with oil spills. I don’t know how you’re going to deal with it but you’ve been promising compensation and not just ‘nickel and dime’ stuff. Which is good. By and large, the US seems to take accidents, the disabling of human beings and monetary compensation pretty seriously.

I also read about some plans to compensate veterans, those who worked to test nuclear weapons. It says here that the compensation could be pretty generous.
Read the rest of this entry »

Yahan Dher Bhi Hai, Andher Bhi

June 9, 2010

Courtesy da Cunha Communications

The iconic Amul girl lends her support to Bhopal.

Courtesy Rahul DaCunha, da Cunha Communications


June 8, 2010

So the verdict is in.

25 years it took to come to this conclusion?

As Indra Sinha says in The Guardian’s Comment is Free

The company fined $11,000 for causing the deaths of more than 20,000 people? That’s 55 cents a death. What of the quarter of a century of suffering endured by more than 100,000 sick survivors? Eleven cents apiece. As criminal damages go, never has a lower price been set on human life and health.

26 yrs on, Bhopal gas tragedy verdict on June 7

May 14, 2010


Twenty-six years after the Bhopal gas tragedy which claimed thousands of lives, a local court trying the case would pronounce its verdict on June 7.
Chief Judicial Magistrate Mohan P Tiwari said Thursday he will pronounce the judgement on June seven on the toxic leak from the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) factory (now defunct), after the arguments of prosecution, CBI, and defence of eight accused drew to a close in the 23-year-old trial.
During the trial, 178 prosecution witnesses were examined and 3,008 documents were exhibited.
CBI counsel C Sahay has argued that the world’s worst industrial disaster occurred due to defective design of the UCIL’s factory and poor maintenance.
Sahay told the court that the Union Carbide Corporation, USA, surveyed the UCIL’s Bhopal factory in 1982 and found serious safety and maintenance lapses on nearly 10 counts.
He contended that even after UCC experts’ team visit adequate safety measures and maintenance work did not take place in the UCIL.

A legacy of suffering

January 19, 2010

A photo-essay by Amiran White

Please write to the College of Engineering, Guindy

January 13, 2010

In another attempt to gain legitimacy in India, Dow are sponsoring the College of Engineering, Guindy’s Kurukshetra ‘Techfest 2010’. IIT Delhi and Kanpur have returned Dow’s money and it is never too late to do the right thing!!!
Why not send a polite email to the dean or vice-chancellor and suggest just that!
Vice Chancellor
Mannar Jawahar
Email: vc AT annauniv DOT edu
Dean, CEG, Dr. M. Sekar
Email: munusekar AT annauniv DOT edu

From the Facebook wall of the Bhopal Medical Appeal

Giving Dow a heart (Kids for a Better Future)

December 9, 2009

From the YouTube page:

On the 25th Anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Disaster, Kids for a Better Future tried to give hundreds of hearts to DOW Chemicals. With new hearts, the hoped that the heartless company would finally take responsibility for its mess in Bhopal, where they have killed 25,000 people and left another 150,000 seriously ill. Scared silly of these kids, the company closed down its offices for the day and ran for cover.

There’s also a photo album here, and a report here.

All links courtesy Akash and Gautam Mehta. As their father (who, by the way, wrote this a few days ago), said to us via email, “My children, Gautama (14) and Akash (11) are involved with activism around the Bhopal issue. Their work shows that Bhopal is not forgotten in America, and there’s a second generation that’s taking up the struggle for justice.”

(The Kids For a Better Future website)

If you’re angry, pass this on

December 7, 2009

A friend who visited my blog left a comment about the futility of raving and ranting — he had just visited my link to this site here — and he wondered what to do about the sense of outrage he felt .

We exchanged a few comments, but I continued thinking about the issues — not just Bhopal, but the lack of interest in the 25th year anniversary. A couple of days later (i.e., today) I posted a comment at my blog which I’m re-posting here:
Read the rest of this entry »

Bhopal: 25 years of poison (The Guardian)

December 6, 2009

Bhopal: 25 years of poison – Indra Sinha, in the Guardian:

“Wake up people of Bhopal, you are on the edge of a volcano!”

In September 1982, Bhopali journalist Raj Keswani wrote a terrifying story, the first of a series of articles, for the city’s Jansatta daily. Bhopal was about to be annihilated. “It will take just an hour, at most an hour-and-a-half, for every one of us to die.”

Keswani’s information came from worried staff at the Union Carbide factory, where a worker, Ashraf Khan, had just been killed in a phosgene spill. The first world war gas was used in the production of MIC (methyl-isocyanate), a substance 500 times deadlier than hydrogen cyanide, and so volatile that unless kept in spotless conditions, refrigerated to 0C, it can even react explosively with itself. Cooling it slows reactions, buys time, but MIC is so dangerous that chemical engineers recommend not storing it at all unless absolutely necessary and then only in the tiniest quantities. In Bhopal it was kept in a huge tank, the size of a steam locomotive.

Far from the shining cathedral of science depicted in Union Carbide adverts, the Bhopal factory more closely resembled a farmyard. Built in the 70s to make pesticides for India’s “green revolution”, a series of bad monsoons and crop failures had left it haemorrhaging money.

Read on.

चलती हुई ज़िन्दगी का ठहराव

December 4, 2009

आज फिर भर आई हैं यह आँखें
क्या करूँ , कमबख्त मानती ही नहीं
कितना समझाया कि मुझे इससे क्या
मेरा इससे के क्या वास्ता
पर फिर भी बार बार भर आती हैं …
तमाम शोरगुल के बीच निकलकर
आती हुई सिसकियाँ …
अनजाने में ही भेद देती हैं अंतर्मन को ..
हवा में घुली वो बेजुबान सिसकियाँ
मेरी बेबसी को और बड़ा देती हैं
और में इस बेबसी के बचने के लिए
स्वयं को इन सब के दूर कर लेता हूँ …
…लेकिन वो ज़मीं जिस पर में रोज़ चलता हूँ
वो पानी जी रोज़ पीता हूँ
वो हवा जिसमे रोज़ सांस लेता हूँ
रोज़ मुझे मेरे इसका हिस्सा होने का एहसास दिलाती है
पर में स्वयं को इससे दूर कर लेता हूँ
समस्त एहसास और जिम्मेदारियों के दूर …
…शायद एक और ऐसी रात का इंतज़ार …
ताकि में अपनी निष्क्रियता कि जंजीरों को हटा पाऊँ …
…पर तब तक हर साल यह आँखें
यूँ ही तारीखों कि तरह भारती रहेंगी
और जाती हुई हवाओं के साथ सूख भी जाएँगी .
कहते हैं ज़िन्दगी ऐसी ही चलती है
पर क्या वाकई ऐसा होता है..
बस एक बार ३ दिसंबर १९८४ से रूबरू तो हो
… तो जानोगे कि चलती हुई ज़िन्दगी का ठहराव क्या होता है …


Animal’s return to Bhopal (Himal Southasian)

December 4, 2009

In early December 1984, a poisoned cloud spewing from a factory lacking in safety mechanisms killed, maimed and choked tends of thousands. Twenty-five years on, the legacy of that fateful night is playing out in the tortured souls and bodies of the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster. In this issue, Indra Sinha, in a story written for Himal to commemorate the disaster, resurrects Animal, that creature on all fours – at once angry, funny and hopeful.

To complement Animal’s indomitable spirit in this issue, artist Venantius J Pinto gives life to his ferocity, seemingly riding on the River Styx in a netherworld of frustration and despair. Yet somewhere lurks the ability to perceive and derive strength from rejection and the denial of compassion.

Animal in Bhopal By Indra Sinha
Regional winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, Indra Sinha, in this exclusive for Himal resurrects Animal, who continues to be boundless, refusing to accept the restraint of human law, custom or convention.

December 1984 By Sathyu Sarangi
Many of the battles begun 25 years ago, in the aftermath of catastrophe, continue today.

The specious ‘corporate veil’
Interview with H Rajan Sharma, international lawyer practicing in New York, currently lead counsel in a class-action litigation against Union Carbide.

A Cloud Still Hangs Over Bhopal (New York Times)

December 4, 2009

Suketu Mehta writes in the New York Times:

IN the Mumbai kindergarten my son went to, the children never had to clean up after themselves; that was the servants’ job. So I really liked the school my son attended when we moved back to Brooklyn, where the teachers made the children tidy up at the end of the day. “Cleanup time, cleanup time!” my 6-year-old sang, joyfully gathering his scraps. It’s a wonderful American tradition: you always clean up the mess you made.


Union Carbide and Dow were allowed to get away with it because of the international legal structures that protect multinationals from liability. Union Carbide sold its Indian subsidiary and pulled out of India. Warren Anderson, the Union Carbide chief executive at the time of the gas leak, lives in luxurious exile in the Hamptons, even though there’s an international arrest warrant out for him for culpable homicide. The Indian government has yet to pursue an extradition request. Imagine if an Indian chief executive had jumped bail for causing an industrial disaster that killed tens of thousands of Americans. What are the chances he’d be sunning himself in Goa?

The Indian government, fearful of scaring away foreign investors, has not pushed the issue with American authorities. Dow has used a kind of blackmail with the Indians; a 2006 letter from Andrew Liveris, the chief executive, to India’s ambassador to the United States asked for guarantees that Dow would not be held liable for the cleanup, and thanked him for his “efforts to ensure that we have the appropriate investment climate.”


The survivors of Bhopal want only to be treated as human beings — not victims, not greedy money-grabbers, just human beings who’ve gone through hell and are entitled to a measure of dignity. That includes concrete things like cleaning up the mess and providing health care for the sick, and also something more abstract but equally important — an acknowledgment that a wrong was done to them, and an apology, which Bhopalis have yet to receive.

That was another fine thing my son learned in the Brooklyn school: when you’ve done something bad, you should say you’re sorry. After a quarter of a century, Dow should acknowledge that it is responsible for a very big mess. And now, it’s cleanup time.

Read the whole piece.

Song, 2

December 3, 2009

Annie Zaidi

Poison breath, poison blood
Poison milk, poison mud
Poison pump, poison tap
Poison in your mama’s lap
Eyes of milk, limbs askew
Dow child mine, is that you?

Baby-making, weird art
Many arrive with half their parts
You don’t know the nuts and bolts
Little girls bleed, women don’t
There’s mercury and chromium too
Dow child mine, is that you?

Applications, admin blues
So many don’ts for one big do
Petition-petition boring game
How to run if you are lame
Dharna-dharna, starve and sue
Dow child mine, is that you?

Leader comes, toxin pet
Says I’m fine, not dead yet
He fought toxin long ago
Now he’s paid for, top to toe
Back bent whole, toothless too
Dow child mine, is that you?

© Annie Zaidi, December 2009

A unique buffet in Bhopal

December 3, 2009

Shweta Vachani

3rd December 2009 marks the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, when an immense cloud of poisonous gas from the Union Carbide pesticide factory enveloped the city, overwhelming the masses.

A quarter century later its survivors are still fighting for justice.

Ahead of 3rd December, the survivors of the tragedy and their supporters have launched a week-long protest to condemn the inaction of the state government to remove the toxic waste from the vicinity of the factory.

In response to the preposterous claim made by the Joint Secretary of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department that the level of toxicity in the soil inside and around the factory compound is way below danger level, and if 200 gm of it is consumed orally by a person weighing 70 kg, it will not have any effect — implying that any food or plant grown in that soil is “safe” for consumption — a Vish Mukti Bhoj was organised on 28th November in front of the factory by the survivors of the tragedy.
Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering Bhopal, and trying to forget

December 3, 2009

Lekhni, well-known blogger and contributor to DesiPundit, wrote this two years ago.

Twenty three years is a long time. For some people, it is the sum total of years they were single. For others, it is length of their entire career. For me, twenty three years is life after Bhopal.

The year, of course, was 1984. In later years, I would read George Orwell. 1984 would then acquire different meanings for me. But those were just fictional meanings. The reality was, 1984 was always just Bhopal.

I still remember the cold winter morning, foggy like any other. We lived in the suburbs of Bhopal, less than ten miles from the old city, where the Union Carbide factory was. Ten miles is not much of a distance. But on that night, it was enough to spare us.

As usual, my mother woke up at dawn to water the plants in the garden. She thought the hedges and the bougainvillea strangely smelt of Sevin (the insecticide that Union Carbide made), but dismissed the thought. Then the radio news announced that there had been a gas leak in Bhopal. No casualties were mentioned. We listened, but it was just another piece of impersonal news. We felt sorry for whoever was affected, wondered where it was, and went about our day. An hour later, my Dad left for work as usual.

Read on.

When will it rain?

December 2, 2009

Mridula Koshy

She drops us in a depression scratched into the base of the kitchen wall, outside the London Blessing Party Hall Your Wedding Needs Are Ours. Ahead of us stretches the empty lot, then Khirki Gaanv. Behind us, on the other side of the wall, ten hundred thousand lights are not lit at Select City Mall.

A rip current travelling the planet’s skin sends its tremors ahead. We quake. We cling to that wall. But the tide subsides in the fine mesh of Khirki’s labyrinthine turns, so that crossing the empty lot it laps us, milk lapping a saucer. How do I know milk lapping a saucer? I dreamed it in the womb, my mother’s dream.

Little gusts remain to kick and fuss, to blow softly into our blind eyes the news: plaster and oil, salt and cud of grass, thread of down loosened in flight from young bird’s breast. Twitch nose and sniff for meaning.
Read the rest of this entry »

25 years and still waiting (The Hindu)

December 2, 2009

25 years and still waiting, by Vidya Subrahmaniam in The Hindu

Mr. Anderson had been in hiding for ten years when Greenpeace, and before that a British newspaper, tracked him down. Mr. Harell would remark after the meeting: “If a team of journalists and Greenpeace managed to track down India’s most wanted man in a matter of days, how seriously have the U.S. authorities tried to find him in all these years? The U.S. has reacted swiftly on curbing the financial corporate crimes of Enron and WorldCom, but has clearly not made much of an effort to find Anderson, responsible for the deaths of 20,000 people in India.”

The searing comment underscored the dubious role played by the world’s most powerful democracy in protecting the key perpetrator of the world’s worst industrial disaster. Seventeen years after he was proclaimed an “absconder”, Mr. Anderson, now 88, continues to elude the long reach of the law. However, it is not just that the wheels of justice showed no inclination to move in the U.S. The Indian government has been no less lethargic in bringing Mr. Anderson to justice. It sent out a formal request for his extradition in May 2003, close to two decades after the crime. As Bhopal activist Nityanand Jayaraman would tell The Hindu on the 25th anniversary of the gas leak: “In the case of Anderson, the [Indian] government’s heart is just not on the job.”

Indeed, the Bhopal saga is a painful reminder of the unconscionable way justice plays out for the poor in this country — with victims fighting a battle so long and hard that justice has little meaning when it finally arrives.

Read the full piece.