How can a corporation deny its responsibility from one of the world's massive industrial disasters? And how come a democratic government elected by its own people does not take adequate steps in protecting and compensating its own citizens from the apparent maleficence of multinational company? The Dow Chemical that had purchased Union Carbide in 2001 now says the following in its website: "Dow never owned or operated the Bhopal plant." -- Is it so easy to wash one's hands by just restructuring or rearranging a corporation? Till to date, not a single upper echelon person is held responsible for this horrendous episode? How could that be?
Amnesty International states the following:
"The Bhopal case illustrates how companies evade their human rights responsibilities and underlines the need to establish a universal human rights framework that can be applied to companies directly. Governments have the primary responsibility for protecting the human rights of communities endangered by the activities of corporations, such as those employing hazardous technology. However, as the influence and reach of companies have grown, there has been a developing consensus that they must be brought within the framework of international human rights standards."
In these days of corporate influences in almost every fabric of our existence, can fairness and justice for all be still possible? The Bhopal disaster and its horrific and scandalous aftermath show the importance of global unity in establishing the rule of law that protects the poorest of the poor from the seemingly unstoppable onslaughts of giant multinational corportations and their "in-bedded" governments. Sure, we cannot go back to those agrarian based societies of the past, our civilization has moved quite afar from those days of simplicity, but the needs are there for the combined efforts in creating and maintaining a fair play of field in the global arena for the sake of further progresses of the same civilization that we all seem so proud about.
Clouds of Injustice: Bhopal disaster 20 Years on
| Protesters outside the Dow headquarters in Mumbai, during a demonstration in December 2002 to mark the anniversary of the disaster, demand the clean-up of Bhopal.
© Maude Dorr
|There were thousands of bodies. There were bodies everywhere. And people were dying all round.
Mohammad Owais, a volunteer at Hamidia Hospital, Bhopal, India
More than 7,000 people died within a matter of days when toxic gases leaked from a chemical plant in Bhopal, India on the night of 2/3 December 1984. Over the last 20 years exposure to the toxins has resulted in the deaths of a further 15,000 people as well as chronic and debilitating illnesses for thousands of others for which treatment is largely ineffective.
The disaster shocked the world and raised fundamental questions about government and corporate responsibility for industrial accidents that devastate human life and local environments. Yet 20 years later, the survivors still await just compensation, adequate medical assistance and treatment, and comprehensive economic and social rehabilitation. The plant site, has still not been cleaned up. As a result, toxic wastes continue to pollute the environment and contaminate water that surrounding communities rely on.
|We have to travel at least two kilometres to get clean water... My health is so bad that it prevents me from carrying the water I need from there.
Hasina Bi of Atal Ayub Nagar, a neighbourhood in Bhopal near the plant, has been drinking the water from the hand-pump near her house for 18 years.
The Bhopal case illustrates how companies evade their human rights responsibilities and underlines the need to establish a universal human rights framework that can be applied to companies directly. Governments have the primary responsibility for protecting the human rights of communities endangered by the activities of corporations, such as those employing hazardous technology. However, as the influence and reach of companies have grown, there has been a developing consensus that they must be brought within the framework of international human rights standards
In its report, Clouds of injustice: Bhopal disaster 20 years on (PDF), Amnesty International is:
- urging people around the world to put pressure on Dow and the Indian Government demanding that the site is cleaned up and affected communities are compensated.
- calling on the Indian Government to promptly assess the damage to health and the environment caused by the leak and the contamination
- recommending the implementation of a global human rights framework for business, based on the UN Norms for Business. To hold companies accountable and guarantee redress for the victims it is imperative that such standards are implemented and mechanism to enforce them are put in place.
Dow Chemical must take responsibility for clean-up -- click here to take action!
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