Gas tragedy, Indian accused are deposed

Bhopal.net comments in italics
For the second consecutive day, the Bhopal Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court recorded statements of those accused in the criminal case — under section 301 of the CrPC — pertaining to the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy caused by leakage of methyl isocyanate from the now-closed Union Carbide factory.
The unit’s then shift supervisor Shakeel Qureshi deposed before CJM A K Gupta in the pre-lunch session.
Former works manager J Mukund yesterday denied any difference in the structure of the company’s plants in the US and here. Mr Mukund responded to prosecution by saying minor leakages did not occur at the factory earlier.
Bhopal.net comment: Mukund’s statements are false. Carbide’s own memos show that the Bhopal plant used “unproven technology” which was predicted to cause problems. There were major safety differences between the UCC plant in Institute, West Virginia and the plant in Bhopal. Leakages of gas were common – see comment on previous story – and local residents had grown used to the boiled cabbage smell from the plant, not knowing it was methyl isocyanate, until the night when 27 tons of it leaked and killed thousands of them.
“Methyl isocyanate is a toxic, inflammable and reactive gas that should not be stored in iron, steel, aluminium, tin, concrete or metal containers,” he admitted.
Mr Mukund denied that, just a couple of months preceding the disaster, there were discussions that the unit was being shifted.
In fact, UCC was planning to dismantle it and shift it either to Indonesia or Brazil.
Replying to a question, Mr Mukund said employee Mohammad Ashraf — whose death preceded the tragedy — was not killed by a gas leak but due to his own fault while at work.
Ashraf was killed by phosgene, which was spilled accidentally. He was not wearing proper protective clothing. Safety standards and practices at the plant were however so appalling that the workers tried to warn local people through a poster campaign.
Earlier, ex-production supervisor K V Shetti’s statement was recorded. Based on 178 CBI prosecution witnesses’ statements more than 600 queries have been drafted.
For the first time in the history of the trial, which has been argued since 1987, a February 6 hearing witnessed the then Union Carbide India Ltd chairman Keshav Mahindra and seven other accused appearing before the bench together.
They were Mr Qureshi, Mr Mukund, Mr Shetty, the then MD Vijay Gokhale, vice-president Kishore Kamdar, production manager S P Chaudhry and A K Srivastava.
Hearings will continue until tomorrow and Mr Mahindra and Mr Gokhale may be recalled to the witness stand.

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