Jun 8, 2010

Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Company Raj is back in India

I am outraged. I am seething with anger. Nearly 26 years after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the night yesterday again seemed to be without end. I tossed around in my bed, trying to count the sheep a number of times, but somehow the callousness of the insensitive judiciary and the politicians remained transfixed in my wandering thoughts.

I woke up early, and the first picture that came to my mind was from the Bollywood film Mangal Pandey. The film is based on the man who is believed to have triggered the launch of India's first battle for Independence in 1857. I could see Mangal Pandey seething with anger and clutching to his gun while the British flag lay on the ground burning. That was Circa 1857.

In 2010, Company Raj is back in India.

Call it 'Justice Buried' or 'Justice Denied' and as some newspapers say: After 25 Years, Another Tragedy Strikes Bhopal'. You can go on showering choicest abuses for the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, for watering down the provisions of Indian law usually applied to road mishaps so that the Company Bahudur (as the East India Company was then known) could escape unscathed, the fact of the matter is that the Indian democracy has over the years been reduced to "of the industry, by the industry and for the industry."

You and me do not matter any more. We have been reduced to simple numbers, to be recounted after every ten years during census.

With 15,274 dead, 5,74,000 affected, and a verdict that should have been delivered in 26 days taking 26 long years, and that too a mockery of justice, no heads have rolled. While the newspapers are splashed with reports of the Bhopal verdict, I find Prime Minister Manmohan Singh quoted in a separate report from Srinagar, which he visited yesterday, also published on the front pages. Isn't it amusing to read the PM saying: 'Will Safeguard human rights in Kashmir.'

You couldn't even safeguard the rights of the Bhopal victims, Mr Prime Minister.

I don't understand how come the Prime Minister does not feel morally compelled to submit resignation over the injustice delivered in the world's worst industrial disaster. He will not. Because he is busy laying out a red carpet for Corporate America. He has an 'incomplete task' on hand. How can he apologise when he is busy fine tuning the Nuclear Liability Bill, to be introduced in the next session of Parliament, for which he may receive an honorary doctorate from the Harvard.

Last time, he was conferred with an honorary doctorate from the Oxford, Manmohan Singh had showered praise on the British for what they did during the days of the Raj !

You may have forgotten something that still remains embedded in me. When the Securities Scam burst in India, and I am talking of the period when Manmohan Singh was the Finance Minister, it was not only stock broker Harshad Mehta who was involved. Two foreign banks, including Citibank, were also involved. I still remember vividly when Manmohan Singh refused to initiate any action against the erring banks, saying: "It will send out a wrong signal."

Didn't I say Company Raj is back.

Seeking extradition of Warren Anderson, Union Carbide CEO at the time of disaster and until his retirement in 1986, was never pursued vigorously because it would send a wrong signal. And yes, Manmohan Singh did send a 'right signal' when he said that "India loves George Bush".

At times of e-governance, I am surprised how could such gross injustice happen. Where are those who swear in the name of e-governance as the ultimate weapon to bring justice and administrative accountability? They have been busy selling computer hardware.

Nevertheless, I must return to my work now. I and my colleagues still have to fight the battle on several fronts. Successive governments have laid the foundation for many more Bhopals -- GM crops, FDI in agriculture, Special Economic Zones (SEZ), nuclear plants, to name a few -- and are busy amending laws to make it easier for business and industry to exploit India. With Parliament in the hands of the corporates, and with democracy not looking beyond industry, it is time people realised that Company Raj is back.

But the way a handful in Bhopal continued with the struggle for justice for 26 years, and have still not given up, I too feel inspired.

Mangal Pandey is not dead.


Anonymous said...

This is such a powerful piece.

Thank you.


Javed said...

thank you.

Thoufeewi said...

a very well written article... i'm deeply disappointed and sad about this event...

Anand said...

Excellent write up. If the result of a probe emerged like this, where will be the justice..?
- AnandTeerth

Anonymous said...

But the real culprit is our own Goverment. To start with , it diluted the case of punishment to the guilty and the compensation for the victims through a Supreme Court Judgment way back in 90's.Even large part of the whatever compensation was received must have been pocketed by the distributors themselves.

Our law makers and politicians, busy as they are, had no time to frame/amend laws to deal with such man- made calamities even in 26 years. Company raj is not back- it has never left India.

But for a few drops of crocodiles tear sheded by Law minister of India, the men who matters in the Govt are silent even now. PM and others must be busy in diluting the Nuclear Liability bill.

S. Mazumdar

Dinanath said...

May I translate this piece in Marathi, and publish it in our fortnightly journal 'Watsaru' under your name as an author? Watsaru is published from Pune, and distributed by post only to the subscribers (1500) since last 10 years.

Anonymous said...

Please do.

Do mail me a copy.

Devinder Sharma

srinivas said...

excellent article. might this incident should touch the hearts of politicians,if it doesn't their r not human beings...

it's a bad incident to our country