Issue Date: May 28, 2012
The Saga Of Dow And Bhopal
The sequence of events in the Bhopal disaster is well documented in Wikipedia.
In 1934, Union Carbide India Ltd. (UCIL) was formed, later expanding to about 9,000 employees in 14 plants, including Bhopal (completed in 1970). Union Carbide Corp. (UCC) owned approximately 51%, with Indian investors (including the Indian government) owning the remainder. UCIL, not UCC, was the owner and was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the Bhopal plant. This implies that UCIL and its management, not UCC, were directly responsible for the Bhopal tragedy.
Methyl isocyanate was released as a result of water entering an MIC storage tank in December 1984.
Warren Anderson, at that time chairman and chief executive officer of UCC, on Dec. 7 flew to Bhopal to personally direct UCC efforts to help the victims. He was arrested upon deplaning in Bhopal. After posting bail, he left India and, understandably, has not returned. The decision to arrest Anderson was about the worst that could have been made with respect to providing aid to the Bhopal victims. It seemed to set the precedent that finding a scapegoat and getting money were more important than aiding the stricken people.
In 1989, the Supreme Court of India directed a $470 million settlement by UCC and UCIL. Was that enough? Perhaps not, but surely a settlement directed by the Supreme Court of India should have had some consideration for the Bhopal victims and should have carried some weight in future proceedings.
In 1994, the Supreme Court of India allowed UCC to sell its share in UCIL to Eveready Industries India Ltd. (EIIL). The Bhopal plant was sold to McLeod Russel, India (MRI). The statement in Tremblay’s article that whoever buys a company buys its liabilities implies that EIIL and MRI bought UCIL’s liabilities and UCC and later Dow Chemical are free of them. On the practical side, Dow probably has deeper pockets than EIIL or MRI, and in India it is politically more expedient to go after U.S. companies than Indian companies.
Tremblay also reported that Cherokee Investment Partners offered to clean up the site. Bhopal activists blocked the settlement so “the polluter” would not escape. This continues the pain of the true victims of the tragedy and continues the “find a scapegoat and more money” approach.
By Philip Lowell
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