20 December 2011

Bhopal Tragedy: Not Dow, but Survivors Need to be Heard

Olympics, said to be an exhibition of universal brotherhood and transparency, have set the stage for fierce political games many a times with Adolf Hitler being one of the first ones forcing this global platform to mirror one’s ideology. But as India cries for the removal of Dow Chemical as the official sponsors of the 2012 London Olympics, the cause carries great sentiments, sentiments closely linked to the death of thousands of Indians.
Bhopal Tragedy: Not Dow, but Survivors Need to be Heard

It is not just the desperate hope of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the tragedy, rather a humanitarian right to let the world know that – on the fateful night of December 2, 1984, the residents all around the city of Bhopal were exposed to 42 tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and the thick poisonous air killed a minimum of 3787 people within 72 hours (some reports suggest 8000-10,000) and subsequently, as many as 25,000 deaths were reported. There are over 50,000 people living with permanent disabilities due to the gas leak.

We cannot just put it as Mario Puzo did and say, “it’s just business nothing personal,” but only to be confronted with another from his famous ‘The Godfather’, “It's all personal, every bit of business.” And when they proudly boast of this universal event as a tool to foster peace and social justice around the world, it’s just a sad dark truth that this Olympics with the Dow logo on the heart of its flag, will only denigrate the 27-year long sufferings of the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors – which apparently was caused by Union Carbide, a company Dow Chemicals acquired in 2001.  Dow Chemicals’ baseless and insanely stupid argument that it did not own Union Carbide at the time of the tragedy is viewed as just another pretext to escape the burden of responsibility which is often criticized on the grounds of ethics. While the company denies its inherited responsibility for the world’s worst industrial accident, the business knavishness leaves no corporate body responsible for the sufferings of thousands in Bhopal.

As the quadrennial extravaganza becomes the promoter of a company accused of manslaughter in India, there is nothing wrong for the country to make it a political ground to expose the apathy of the multinationals towards the safety standards and value of human life - a double standard the MNCs always follow when it comes to the third world or developing nations where their insatiable greed often ends up in tragedies. And as long as the guilty – Union Carbide, owned by Dow Chemical– remains unpunished, India has a strong reason to fight it globally on every political opportunity.