Wednesday, December 02, 2009

all Bhopalis

If Bhopal had happened five years after it did, I could have been one of those on the AP Express on the night of 2nd/3rd December. It's not likely, because it was not vacation time and chances are that I would have been in Delhi.

In fact, I was in school. One way of dealing with one horror following another (the massacre of Sikhs just a little over a month earlier) was to talk about it with charts and drawings, the way Time magazine and India Today learnt to do. It keeps events at a distance: you can talk about Methyl Isocyanate with drawings of cells and arrows and forget for the moment what it does when it enters the body.

I was not in Bhopal, but I could have been in that town whose station I passed six times every year for ten years. One of the uses of this kind of thinking is to make the thought it could have been me real, if only for a short time.

I'm not linking because everything can be googled: among them, Vidya Subramaniam's article in today's Hindu about Anderson and how he's escaped extradition.

As Copenhagen is a word that's going to be heard more often in the next few days, it would be good to remember that amongst all the talk of carbon and footprints and offsets and emissions, there are other things - relevant to Copenhagen - that no one will bring up. Dow and Union Carbide before them were polluters who never paid: the people of Bhopal did. Not just with their health, but with the years they might have had to live a different life.

I was going to say something about migration caused by environmental disasters and human rights issues but I can just let off a unsupported screed. It is germane to the issue of Bhopal: maybe I will just point you to an old post instead where I talk about it a little bit toward the end.

I'm not sure what the point of this post is - I hope to just remember that there has been no justice even after 25 years; that for all the talk about emission cuts and environmental responsibility, we're nowhere close to drawing a line under that chapter; that it could happen again; that we need to think about what we intend to do, individually and collectively.

Update: Indra Sinha in the Guardian; Hari Batti for the entire week (do check out the Yes Men links)..


Rahul Siddharthan said...

Indeed, the lack of action on Bhopal is a blot on our history. If Polanski can be arrested after a quarter-century, why not Anderson? Does he visit any countries with whom we have an extradition treaty? Do we have an extradition treaty with any country?

Space Bar said...

rahul: anderson is 81 now. according to vidya's article, soli sorabjee feels we should just let it be because the man is old and on humanitarian grounds he should be let free.

go figure.

legally, at least, i really don't think forgive and forget is an option. no matter how long it takes.

Hari Batti said...

It's so important to remember this stuff. Anderson is old, but let's not forgot he jumped bail and flew out of the country on a private jet. He should come back and face trial for that. The US should extradite him. Let's face it: there is nothing like a little old fashioned justice to make CEO's take safety regs more seriously! It many not be good for him, but if it stops another Bhopal, then it's worth it.

Cheshire Cat said...

More troubling than the issue with the extradition is the lack of adequate compensation for the victims. This is simply down to the government's lack of will. They raise us a Union Carbide, we raise them a Jairam Ramesh...

Space Bar said...

hari batti: true; but who are we kidding. of course the US won't do anything of the sort.

cat: well, it's all govt lack of will in one way, isn't it? from ignoring the first PIL, to giving the man bail and doing nothing about it; the woefully tiny compensation - all of it.