Face the law: Bhopal Survivors Tell Union Carbide, Anderson

Press Statement
August 6th, 2009
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Bhopal Group for Information and Action

While welcoming the Bhopal court’s order to the Indian Government to renew efforts to produce Warren Anderson, survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal today said Anderson and Union Carbide must defend themselves by appearing in court, rather than act in a cowardly fashion by claiming innocence even while absconding from the courts.
Press reports on Sunday cited Union Carbide spokesman Tomm Sprick’s claims that “overwhelming evidence” indicated sabotage to be the cause of the massive release of toxic gases from the company’s former pesticides plant that has killed at least 23,000 people till date.
“This so-called ‘evidence’ is so underwhelming that Union Carbide doesn’t dare to present it in court in its own defence”, said Syed M Irfan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha. “The only report that claims sabotage – and not corporate malfeasance and neglect – was commissioned and paid for by Union Carbide itself.”
Union Carbide and Anderson have sought refuge in the US, and have failed to submit themselves to the jurisdiction of Indian courts for nearly two decades. On July 31st the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal re-issued a non-bailable warrant of arrest against Anderson, prime accused in ongoing criminal proceedings that were initiated at Bhopal’s Hanumanganj police station within hours of the disaster.
Union Carbide’s Sprick is also reported to have said that “it makes no sense to continue to attempt to criminalise a tragedy which no one could have forseen”, a claim fiercely dismissed by Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.
“When Union Carbide’s lawyers accepted the 1991 Supreme Court review of the original 1989 out-of-court settlement, they also accepted the revival of criminal proceedings – these were an integral part of the decision. The criminal charges were necessary because there is ample evidence the disaster was not only forseeable, it was made increasingly likely by decisions imposed by US executives,” he said.
Attempts to force Union Carbide officials to face charges of culpable homicide, grievous assault and others have so far been frustrated. Union Carbide Corporation itself has been declared a fugitive for refusing to turn up in court. Several summons served by Interpol in the early 1990’s were ignored, and there has been a corresponding lack of judicial assistance by US authorities. In 2004 the US Justice Department refused to honour an extradition request made by the Indian government.
“Anderson came to Bhopal just days after his factory killed thousands of us. His lawyers were already here and knew that a criminal complaint had been filed, but even so he thought he was above the law,” said Rashida Bi of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh. “He signed a bail bond for 25,000 Rupees promising to return, and he’s been hiding ever since.”
In support of the Bhopal survivors Bill Fletcher, former Assistant to the President of the AFL-CIO, USA and Hilda Palmer of the Hazards Campaign, UK condemned Union Carbide for defaming workers and pointed out that the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (Now the ITUC) and the International Federation of Chemicals, Energy and General Workers Unions had carried out detailed investigations in 1985 and concluded that: “The disaster was caused by insufficient attention to safety in the process design, dangerous operating procedures, lack of proper maintenance, faulty equipment, and deep cuts in manning levels, crew sizes, worker training and skilled supervision.”
“As a core member of the approving committee, Warren Anderson was directly implicated in ratifying the MIC-Sevin technology that failed so catastrophically in December 1984,” remarked Mr Sarangi. “Other court documents demonstrate that Anderson presided over a later money saving drive that greatly reduced maintenance and engineering expertise at the Bhopal plant. Warnings from Bhopal’s sister plant at Institute, West Virginia – that tanks of the highly volatile chemical MIC were vulnerable to ingress of water that could in turn set off a runaway reaction – were totally ignored.”
“We’re sorry to hear that Mr Anderson is haunted by what happened in Bhopal”, said Mrs Bi, who lost several close relatives to the disaster, “but if there are ghosts I’m certain they live here, not in an exclusive part of New York. Perhaps Mr Anderson would feel better if he came to Bhopal and faced them once and for all.”
Rashida Bi, Champa Devi Shukla
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh

Syed M Irfan,
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
93290 26319

Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
98261 67369

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