Survivors: Shocking news of the gassing of thousands in Vizag rends our hearts, but it fails to surprise us

We, the survivors of Union Carbide’s gassing of Bhopal, have always feared that an economic system that continues to favour gain over planetary life and wellbeing would bring another Bhopal to another innocent and unsuspecting city. A political system that places the rights of corporations to break laws, pollute and plunder over the human rights to life and security will inevitably kill and maim again, and on a scale that cannot be hidden or denied.

Greed, callousness and cowardice ensure that civil and criminal responsibility for Bhopal remain untried and unpunished. Nearly four decades on we, the survivors of this massacre, continue to fight the subverted system of justice that denies our essential rights, and continue to fight The Dow Chemical Company and its apologists, who evade and twist both laws and truth to avoid accountability.

In this world in which corporations are left free to ravage the environment, make or break governments and act with impunity, we are, all of us, potential or actual victims of corporate crimes. This is why we continue to say ‘We all Live in Bhopal’. This is why, in our unending struggle, we continue to cry out ‘No More Bhopals!’

“When I saw the images on television of people struggling to breathe and laying on the roadside,” Rashida Bi said yesterday, “something hit me deep inside, as if I was lying motionless, among them, begging to save my life and struggling to breath.”

The survivors of Vizag must not become the survivors of Bhopal. It seems likely that the gas that choked and killed on the night of May 7th will go on bringing suffering and death, perhaps even for generations. Every single person affected must be treated with nothing less than dignity and compassion, and provided with the medical care and support they deserve as a minimum – and to the highest possible standards. Legal principles of Absolute Liability must be brought to bear on those responsible and an international precedent in corporate accountability must be established.

It is too late to prevent this avoidable tragedy, but it is not too late to prevent Vizag becoming another enduring disaster, another open wound. At a minimum, responsible parties must:

  1.  Make the welfare of surviving victims and the families of those who perished the primary focus of every decision. The highest possible standard of healthcare must be provided immediately, freely, and to all.
  2. Under principles of Absolute Liability, make parent company LG Chem fully responsibility for medical care, long-term health monitoring, environmental restoration and compensation, and ensure their cooperation with all subsequent criminal enquiries.
  3. Ensure legal precedents strong enough to act as a lasting deterrent to all future corporate wrongdoers
  4. Set an example in accountability and remedy for corporate negligence and wrongdoing broad enough to bring those liable for historical harms to heel.

 

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