Deshdeep Saxena, Bhopal, January 24
(Published in Hindustan Times, Bhopal Live)

The Union Carbide plant, which leaked the lethal Methyl Isocyanate gas killing thousands in Bhopal, was up ‘for sale’ even on the intervening night of December 2, 3, 1984 when the holocaust took place.

This revelation comes in the "Midnight in Bhopal" – the 400 page forthcoming work of Dominique Lapierre, the celebrated French writer, and Javier Moro, his Spanish nephew and co-author.

The French and Spanish editions of the book are slated for release in Europe next month. The English translation will come out next year.

"The Carbide management wanted to sell the plant as it was not making profit", Moro, 45, told the Hindustan Times. "The plan was to dismantle the plant and send it to Brazil. A group of engineers was already on the job", he said quoting his book.

Moro said, "I came to Bhopal with Dominique three years back and interviewed many people including former workers of the Union Carbide plant, doctors, et al." The duo met over 300 people for their research. "I came again in 1999 and spent many months here. We met former engineers who designed the plant at Bhopal, who are now settled down in Europe and the United States," Moro said. Moro has written four other books including "Jaipur Foot", about the famous artificial foot of the Pink City, and "Mountain of Buddha" about the Tibetan freedom struggle. "Midnight in Bhopal" is his fifth book, which he has co-authored with his "mamu" (maternal uncle), the term he has been using for Lapierre ever since he started visiting Bhopal.

Talking more about the book, Moro said a bunch of highly-qualified engineers had left the Bhopal plant before the gas tragedy struck. "The management had lost interest in the plant. There was lack of maintenance either."

The duo of Dominique Lapierre and Javier Moro attempted to meet Warren Anderson, the former Union Carbide chairman, and the other officials of Union Carbide, but in vain.

"We approached them, but our efforts did not yield any results," says Moro, who works for Elpais, the largest-circulated Spanish daily. "Individually, they did not refuse, but when we addressed Union Carbide, they refused, saying the case is sub-judice," he explained.

"Midnight in Bhopal" begins with the city of Sixties, its transformation from a sleepy town to a hustling state capital. Moro said the book is also for the western audience to remove the misconception that India was not a country of snake-charmers but a nation of engineers and highly-skilled technicians. It is also about the amazing jump of the country in the field of science and technology.

The book also quotes a Dutch scientist, C.M.Peterson, a specialist on industrial safety who pointed out differences between the Bhopal plant and its blueprint. The Indian government had also sought his help to evaluate the causes of the Bhopal gas tragedy, according to the Spanish writer.