Tag Archives: Legal

Times of India exposes Dow’s double standards on Bhopal

Here is something for legal eagles of the government of India to chew on: while Dow Chemical Company denies any responsibility for damages caused by Union Carbide in Bhopal, it has taken over all liability of Carbide for fighting out over 75,000 asbestos related law suits in the US. Dow/Carbide expects to incur liability costs of $839 million in the coming years. They have already spent a whopping $687 million in litigation costs, besides paying out $1,480 million to an unspecified number of claimants till date. Carbide became a subsidiary of Dow through a merger in 2001.

These facts, gleaned from the mandatory annual filing (Form 10-k) for 2009 submitted by Dow to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the US on February 19, 2010, clearly establish that Dow has taken over Union Carbide liabilities for bodily damages caused by the latter’s commercial activities. In the case of Bhopal, Dow has consistently claimed that it had nothing to do with the massive gas leak disaster of December 3, 1984 in the pesticide plant run by Union Carbide.

In 1994, Union Carbide (USA) sold off its interest of 50.9% in Union Carbide (India) to Macleod Russel (India) which renamed it as Eveready Industries India. According to Dow, its connection with UCIL doesn’t exist because it took over the parent company only in 2001. But, according to N D Jaiprakash, one of the petitioners in the lawsuits on Bhopal, Union Carbide (USA) had already been declared an absconder in 1992 and it is named in the chargesheet filed by the Union government. “All criminal liability, as also liability for clean up of contamination caused by Carbide prior to disaster naturally passes to Dow,” he explains.

In the US asbestosis cases, Dow is defending or settling the suits on behalf of Union Carbide as well as Carbide’s subsidiary Amchem Products Limited, which Carbide took over in 1977. In India, Dow is distancing itself from Union Carbide (USA), which in turn is washing its hands off its own subsidiary Union Carbide India Limited.

According to the latest Form 10-k filing by Dow, there were 75,030 unresolved asbestosis related claims at the end of 2009, including 24,146 claims against both Union Carbide and Amchem. There are over 50,000 individual claimants. Dow/Carbide settled 9,131 claims in 2009.

Of the $839 million estimated future liability reported in the 10-k filing, about 23% is for existing pending claims and 77% is for future claims. Asbestosis claims have arisen from thousands of people who were exposed to asbestos used by companies in the 1940s and 50s. Inhalation of asbestos fibres causes four categories of compensable diseases: mesothelioma; lung cancer; certain other cancers (colon-rectal, throat, intestines and stomach); and non-malignant conditions like lung damage. Claimants are seeking compensation for a variety of causes including negligent failure to warn, strict liability, breach of express and implied warranty, negligent infliction of emotional distress, enhanced risk of disease, medical monitoring, and civil conspiracy. A Supreme Court appointed committee said in 1991 that by 2015, about 265,000 people would have suffered damage from asbestos.

The 10-k filing of Dow also states that it is seeking recovery of $84 million from insurers for its asbestos liability, and $448 million as costs of defence and resolution of law suits in courts.

The similarities between the Bhopal disaster and asbestosis cases in US are striking in that both have led to
long term and severe bodily harm to people because of actions of the companies. But the attitude of Dow is strikingly different between US and India. In the US, Dow is responsible for what its subsidiaries (and their subsidiaries) did years ago. Hence, it is in the thick of litigation and forced to pay affected persons because of immense pressure from public opinion and judiciary. So much so that Dow admits that asbestos related claims, including future defence costs could have a material adverse impact on its consolidated financial position.

In India, Dow is denying any responsibility for what its subsidiary Union Carbide (USA) and its then subsidiary Union Carbide India did in the Bhopal tragedy in 1984.

SUBODH VARMA

Share this:

Facebooktwitterredditmail

Obama need not come under undue pressure about Anderson

To The Editor,
Bhopal.net

Sub:- Obama need not come under undue pressure about Anderson.

Ref:- (i)- Judicial delay a blessing in disguise for Bhopal tragedy victims due to Mexico gulf BP oil leak.
(ii)- Obama may use example of Bhopal settlement to streamline US corporate laws.
(iii)- Coy’s non – technical directors and managers should me made culpable only after coy’s technocrats and State regulatory and inspection bureaucrats.
(iv)- Every limited coy should be made separate and independent entity.
(v)- GOI giving undue importance to judiciary.
(vi)- Need for uniform Compensations for dead and injured in all tragedies.
(vii)- USA should drop all the civil cases in US courts regarding Bhopal tragedy.
(viii)- GOI should enact law for third party insurance for hazardous industries.

Dear Sir

Though no doubt, justice delayed is justice denied but had the last week judgment by subordinate court [in 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in which 20,000 were killed and over five hundred thousand were injured / maimed and in which 7 officers of the company (coy) Union Carbide India limited (UCIL) have been sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment] come within eighties when there was no globalization, then it would have gone in oblivion after some impotent protests of victims and others and some hollow noises by media. But not only now the times are different but also the similarity with ongoing crises in USA regarding Mexico gulf British Petroleum’s oil leak has made all the difference in highlighting this matter to the extent it has now become possible to do. But this matter will not see its logical and legal conclusion unless the following is done:-

(1)- Anybody who has experience of working in large scale chemical / petrochemical industries knows that regarding licensing, construction, continuous technical up-gradation, maintenance, operation, safety and inspection of such hazardous plants there are eight agencies involved (i)- Regulatory / licensing Govt. departments (ii)- technical consultant who provides technology and design / supply and supervise the construction of plants, equipments and machines. (iii)- Technical department of the factory (iv)- operation department of factory (v)- Maintenance department of factory (vi) Safety department of factory (vii) Management of factory with financial and administration powers (viii)- Inspection department of Government. But so much noise is created in Indian media by all, regarding fixing culpability in this tragedy without explaining the role of these 8 agencies where each / any of these 8 agencies failed which resulted in this Bhopal tragedy.

(2)- Hence US Govt. (which has reportedly promised to look into the matter of extradition of UCIL chairman Warren Anderson if India requests so) should not succumb to any pressure from Indian Govt. or its people or media or NGOs etc to harass Anderson unless Govt. of India (GOI) first submit a report to US Govt. about the role of these 8 agencies and about the failure or innocence of these 8 agencies in this tragedy. Otherwise it will have highly damaging effect on the moral of non-technical entrepreneurs (promoters and other share holders) , directors and managers of the corporate world of not only of USA and India (where all most all the leading industrialists are managing hazardous industries) but also of entire world in this age of globalization. Of course if Anderson is found prima-faci guilty after going through said report by Govt. of India then he should be extradited to face justice in the courts of India.

(3)- On the other hand GOI is unnecessarily blaming (i)- Supreme Court of India (SCI) for diluting charges from culpable homicide to criminal negligence (ii)- Subordinate judiciary for letting Anderson escape through bail (iii)- judiciary for delay of 25 years in disposing the case.

(4)- Will GOI enlighten the people that what stopped GOI, who is rightly seized of this matter of Bhopal tragedy of such an immense scale since beginning (i)- from filing review petition in SCI if GOI did not agree with the so called dilution of charges by SCI (ii)- from incorporating explanation to Indian Penal Code to its relevant sections of 304 and 304 -A for the benefit of such victims in future (iii)- from immediately pursuing the matter of extradition of Anderson with US Govt. (even if innocent goofing-up by GOI and Madhya Pradesh State Govt. is granted for argument sake in the escape of Anderson after bail by court without appeal against bail). There is nothing on record to show that GOI persistently pursued the matter of extradition of Anderson with US Govt. since December 7, 1984 when this escape of Anderson was widely reported in media. and (iv)- from constituting fast track court for the trial of accused of Bhopal tragedy especially in view that fast track courts are not a novelty in India.

(5)- Therefore GOI is not only unnecessarily blaming judiciary but also giving undue importance to judiciary in a parliamentary system of democratic India.

(6)- Nothing has done more harm to corporate culture than the practice of holding companies and subsidiary companies in India regarding matters of unethical leverage and security / accounting scandals and also about succession. Hence USA should persuade India to stop this undesirable practice and instead should ask for registration of each company as a separate independent entity. This will take care of succession related matters too of DOW, which has allegedly taken over UCIL with lot of controversies about criminal and civil liabilities of DOW after take over.

(7)- Though in this matter Obama will face great resistance from US corporate sector but by this time (with 18 months in white house) Obama must have realized that in this age of globalization the example from other concerned countries can be gainfully used to bring pressure on the intransigent domestic constituencies in order to make them see reason in due course of time.

(8)- GOI should also bring a suitable legislation about uniform compensation (taking regard to the income tax / land revenue paying capacities of the victims) to killed and injured in various tragedies like rail, road, air accidents floods, tsunami, fire, terrorist attacks etc. Presently it is unjust and arbitrary method by which various Govt. of States and Centre give compensation to these victims.

(9)- One can understand that the victims of 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai can approach Pakistani judiciary because as per law in Pakistan any Pakistani who indulges in criminal acts on Pakistani soil but which has repercussions in other country, can be tried by criminal courts of Pakistan and also Pakistani civil courts may entertain civil suits on the basis of and pursuant to sentences awarded in criminal proceeding. Hence US Govt. should move US courts to drop all the civil proceedings related to Bhopal tragedy as there is no sentence awarded to any US citizen in relation to Bhopal tragedy.

(10)- Because hazardous industries may cause immense deaths and injuries to general public and it may not be possible for such industries to pay compensation out of its cash resources (had there been any Indian coy than UCIL of USA, then even after winding up of the coy and selling its all the free assts it wouldn’t have been possible to many Indian coys to pay worth mentioning compensations to the killed and injured / maimed victims of Bhopal tragedy), therefore GOI should make it mandatory through comprehensive legislation (depending upon the severity of the hazard) that the hazardous factories will have to take third party insurance in order to cover the likely victims from general public (other than the employees of such hazardous factory). It should not be forgotten that in a limited company its owner (the share holders) have limited liability.

(11)- Here it is needless to say that once the criminal liability of these 8 said agencies are decided and accused tried in criminal courts of India then civil liability regarding compensation to victims and other civil liabilities regarding environment etc can easily be recovered by Indian judiciary from Indian State and UCIL (especially when every limited coy is registered in India as separate and independent entity).

Yours truly

Hem Raj Jain

Greater NOIDA, (U.P.)
(Address and telephone number supplied)

Share this:

Facebooktwitterredditmail

Union Carbide US was the real criminal

WAKE UP PEOPLE OF BHOPAL, YOU ARE ON THE EDGE OF A VOLCANO

In September 1982, the Bhopali journalist Rajkumar Keswani wrote a terrifying story for the city’s Hindi Jansatta daily. Bhopal, Keswani wrote, was about to be annihilated.

‘It will take an hour, at most an hour-and-a-half, for every one to die.’ The death of the city, would come in the form of a gas leak from Union Carbide’s pesticide factory.

Keswani’s information came from worried staff at the factory, where a worker, Ashraf Khan, had just been killed in a phosgene spill.

The World War I gas was being used to produce methyl-isocyanate (MIC), a chemical 500 times deadlier than hydrogen cyanide, so volatile that unless kept in spotless conditions and refrigerated to 0˚C, it can even react explosively with itself.

Cooling it slows reactions, buys time in an emergency, but MIC is so dangerous that chemical engineers recommend not storing it at all unless absolutely necessary and then only in the tiniest quantities. In Europe the storage limit is half a ton. In Bhopal, on the night of the disaster, 67 tons of MIC were stored in tanks the size of steam locomotives.

Storing up danger

In an affidavit given to a court in Manhattan, Eduard Muñoz, Union Carbide’s first managing director of Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL), said he had opposed the US parent’s plan to install three giant MIC tanks in Bhopal. Muñoz’s position was that ‘only token storage was necessary, in small containers, based on economic and safety considerations.’

He was overruled. According to experts like the Centre for Scientific & Industrial Research the excessive volume of MIC stored in Bhopal, at times over ninety tons, was the most critical factor in the disaster.

Unproven technology

Union Carbide had not originally manufactured MIC in Bhopal, but used to import it from the US.

On January 1st, 1973 the Indian government of India enacted FERA, the Foreign Exchange & Regulation Act, capping foreign equity in Indian companies at 40%. An alarmed UCC (Union Carbide Corporation) which owned 60% of UCIL’s shares, then proposed to the Indian government that it should start manufacturing MIC in Bhopal. The ultra-hazardous process, a Union Carbide speciality, involved high-technology inputs not available in India. In return, Carbide asked to be exempted from FERA. The exemption was granted, enabling UCC to retain majority control.

Union Carbide promised state-of-the-art science but a confidential project proposal obtained via the discovery process in a US court case proves that it had short-changed the Indian government by cutting costs and using ‘unproven’ methods in the ultra-hazardous alpha-napthol and MIC units, as well as in toxic waste treatment. The crucial pages are 10, 11 and 12.

The document shows that UCC’s own engineers warned of problems and risks, but the board decided to go ahead regardless.

UCC’s strategy was to cut costs by $8 million while retaining a 50.99% majority shareholding that gave it operational control of the factory in distant India.

The subsidiary’s Indian managers duly acceded to the US plan, stating that given the aim of spending as little as possible on the new facility, they found ‘the business risk’ acceptable.

No one appears to have considered the human risk.

Paying the price

As endless safety scares plagued the plant, and a sequence of failed monsoons hit harvests and depressed demand for pesticides, the factory began haemorrhaging money. UCC bosses decided to dismantle the plant and ship it to Indonesia or Brazil, but now, as a confidential memo makes very clear, the unproven technology of the alpha-napthol unit made it ‘impossible to sell.’

Carbide was paying the price for its penny-pinching. Having failed to find a buyer, bosses began cutting back on maintenance expenditure at the plant. Now others too would pay the price. But they would pay with their lives.

Death of Ashraf Khan

Ashraf Khan worked in the ‘unproven’ unit of the factory and was desperately worried about the state of affairs there. His wife, Sajida Bano remembers that he often came home complaining about the dangers that he and other workers faced.

On 24 December 1981 Ashraf was asked to replace a defective flange connecting two pipes in the phosgene manufacturing section. His manager assured him there was no danger but no sooner had he removed the flange than phosgene gushed out onto him. He was taken to the plant dispensary and subsequently moved to Hamidia hospital where he died.

Safety audit finds dangers

After Ashraf’s death Union Carbide management sent a team of US engineers to conduct a ‘business confidential’ safety audit.

The May 1982 report identified 61 hazards, 30 of them major and 11 in the dangerous phosgene/MIC unit.

Safety measures were improved at Carbide’s MIC plant in West Virginia, but not in Bhopal, where, incredibly, Carbide responded to the death of Ashraf Khan by intensifying its cost-cutting in the most dangerous areas of the plant.

Reckless and lunatic cost-cutting

Between 1980-84 the workforce was halved. The crew of the MIC unit was slashed from twelve to six, and its maintenance staff from six to two.

In the MIC control room a single operator had to monitor seventy-odd panels, indicators and controllers, all old and faulty. which often failed.

Safety training was reduced from six months to two weeks, reduced in effect to slogans, but the slogans were in English so the workers couldn’t understand them.

By the time Keswani began writing his articles, the huge, dangerous plant was being operated by men with little training and less English who were expected to use English manuals.

Morale was low but safety fears were ignored by management. Minor accidents were just covered up. There were so many small leaks that the alarm siren was turned off to avoid inconveniencing the neighbours.

In plants dealing with corrosive chemicals such as methyl isocyanate, experts want fortnightly inspections of valves, pipes, and pumps, with new replacements every six months, but in Bhopal inspections were rare and replacements often not made for up to two years. In case of repairs, the use of new parts was curtailed. Old ones must be recycled.

The instructions came from Union Carbide’s regional holding company in Hong Kong, on whose board sat top US executives who reported back to the parent board in Connecticut. Their private report boasts of having saved $1.25 million, but says that ‘future savings would not be so easy.’

Warning not passed on

In February 1984, a safety audit of the West Virginia ‘sister’ factory raised major concerns that a runaway reaction could occur in one of the MIC Unit storage tanks, in which case there would be no way to prevent catastrophic failure of the tank.

Despite the obvious importance of this report and its relevance to the MIC tanks in Bhopal, the warning was not passed on to the Indian plant, where managers were still looking for things to cut. There was nothing left.

Or was there?

Carbide bosses remembered the three giant tanks of MIC.

Refrigeration turned off

The three huge tanks were meant to be kept refrigerated, as per Carbide’s safety manual , at 0˚C.

This is crucial because MIC is so volatile that unless impeccably kept it can even react with itself. Chilling it slows down lethal runaway reactions of the very sort predicted by the West Virginia safety auditors, buying buys time to solve the problem, and most importantly, giving a chance for warnings to be issued and any nearby populations evacuated to safety.

Given the threat of a catastrophic tank failure and knowing the lethal nature of MIC, Union Carbide did the right thing in West Virginia and further improved its safety systems.

In Bhopal, where ambient daytime temperatures can top 40˚C Carbide turned off the refrigeration of the MIC tanks to save freon gas worth $37.68 a day.

Depraved indifference

As evidence mounted that its factory had been negligently and shoddily managed, Carbide began claiming that UCC, the American parent, had no authority or control over the plant’s design or operations, and could bear no responsibility for the disaster.

In fact every important element, from the ‘unproven’ Alpha Napthol unit down to the MIC plant, had been designed by UCC, or else approved by design engineers in the US.

The true story is told by Carbide’s own confidential papers obtained by ‘discovery’: unproven technology, useless safety systems, storing huge amounts of MIC in conditions made doubly dangerous by negligence and cost-cutting, ignoring warnings; and endangering a whole city to save $40 a day – all of these caused the deaths of 20,000 people and condemned 100,000 more to lifetimes of pain.

Union Carbide Corporation’s culture of greed and double standards, in short racism, bred what one prosecuting attorney in a New York court would describe as a ‘reckless, depraved indifference to human life’.

Share this:

Facebooktwitterredditmail

Talking points: why justice cannot prevail

According to Eveready Industries, the successor to Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), there was never any danger of a judgement against the company, consequently no need to provide financially for that eventuality. Whence comes this overweening confidence?

“Trial proceedings before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Bhopal, on the modified charges framed under the directions of the Supreme Court that commenced in September 1997, are yet to be concluded. As per advice of legal counsel, allegations against the Company are without any firm basis and possibilities of proceedings against the Company, succeeding are extremely remote. Since the charges are very likely to fail, no provision is necessary at this stage.”

Unaudited Standalone Financial Results (Provisional) for the Quarter and year ended March 31, 2010

Will justice be done in Bhopal on June 7, 2010? Read on.

Qu. 1. Will justice be done in Bhopal on June 7?

Justice in Bhopal will be done only if the individuals and corporations responsible for the death of over 25 thousand and toxic exposure and damage to over half a million people are punished in an exemplary manner. The punishment accorded to the individual corporate officials and the corporations must be of such that it deters other corporations and corporate officials from being recklessly indifferent to human life and health.

We think that even if the verdict on June 7 is fully against the nine accused, justice will not be any where near done on the world’s worst corporate massacre.

Firstly, the prime accused in this case are Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), and Warren Anderson and both are absconding from Indian courts since 1992. In the last 18 years, the CBI has not taken the tiniest step to get the authorized representatives of UCC, USA extradited and has made only one unsuccessful attempt in 2003 to get Anderson extradited. The third foreign accused, Union Carbide Eastern Limited, Hong Kong, deregistered itself in 1992 without ever appearing in court and the CBI has not taken any action against this absconding accused. Only a concurrent trial of the foreign accused can adequately address the nature and extent of the crimes committed in the disaster in Bhopal.

Secondly, the charges against the accused are much weaker than they should be. There is ample evidence that individual officials and the corporate boards demonstrated reckless indifference towards the lives and health of the workers in the factory and people in the city. They were manifestly aware that the technology employed in Bhopal was exceptionally hazardous, that cost cutting measures had made it more hazardous still, that 30 major hazards had been identified through a safety audit and that safety and maintenance had been run down to a threadbare basis in advance of an intended sell-off. Yet the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) decided to charge Union Carbide and its officials only with criminal negligence.

For their criminal indifference to human life and health, Union Carbide and its officials should have been charged with culpable homicide (Sec. 300 Part IV of Indian Penal Code punishable by life imprisonment) for running the factory knowing that it was so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.

Thirdly, because of an unjust order of the Supreme Court and the CBI’s inaction, the criminal charges against the Indian corporation and its officials have been further diluted. The order of Justice A M Ahmadi delivered on September 13, 1996 brought down the charge from Sec. 304 Part II of Indian Penal Code (IPC) to Sec. 304 A of the IPC without considering the evidence of the culpability of Union Carbide India Limited and its officials. By reducing the Bhopal disaster to the equivalent of a traffic accident the prison term for the crimes of Bhopal was brought down from 10 years to 2 years. Further, a conviction under Sec. 304 A, does not necessarily lead to imprisonment. It could well be reduced to criminal fines.

Finally, because the CBI has done a shoddy job of prosecuting the Indian corporation and its officials, it is very doubtful that the verdict on June 7 will be fully against the accused.

2. How has the CBI fulfilled its role as a prosecutor?

The CBI has done a shoddy job of prosecuting the Indian and the foreign accused.

a) Despite the fact that the documentary evidence is all available, the CBI has failed to present evidence :

– that demonstrate that UCC, USA and Warren Anderson were well aware in 1973 that the technology for the MIC plant in Bhopal was “untested”

– that show that the design of the Bhopal plant was substantially different and inferior in terms of safety when compared to the MIC plant owned by Union Carbide in Institute, West Virginia, USA.

– that establishes that Keshub Mahindra and other officials knew or should have known about the hazardous design of the plant and the additional hazards due to design modifications.

– that links each of the accused to deliberate acts undermining operational safety such as rewriting of operation manuals, decommissioning the crucial refrigeration unit and eliminating the maintenance supervisor from most work shifts.

– that demonstrate that UCC, UCIL and its senior officials were indifferent to the injuries caused to people in the neighbourhood communities due to routine leaks in the factory prior to the disaster in 1984

b) The CBI has also failed to

– produce the three absconding foreign accused in India court.

– stop accused Union Carbide Eastern Inc., Hong Kong from “disappearing”.

– visit the Institute, West Virginia plant to document the design differences between the two plants that would show that the Bhopal plant was deliberately under designed.

– deliver summons and execute arrest warrants despite being India’s Interpol agency.

– prevent the sale of shares of UCC, USA in UCIL in 1994 thus loosening the grip of the Indian court over the absconding corporation.

– appeal against the order of the Supreme court that diluted criminal charges against Indian accused.

– take action against the sale of Union Carbide’s intellectual property in India while the corporation is absconding from justice.

– make Dow Chemical, USA, current owner of Union Carbide, appear in the Bhopal court despite clear orders.

3. Why did the case against the Indian officials take so long?

The verdict against the Indian accused is now expected 25 years after the disaster in 1984. The CBI filed charges only in 1987. From 1989 to 1991 it was quashed by the Supreme Court’s order on settlement. From 1993 to 1996 the matter was under revision by the State High Court and the Supreme Court which diluted the charges from culpable homicide to death by negligence.

The case involved examination and cross examination of 178 prosecution witnesses and 8 defence witnesses and presenting over 3000 documents before the court. Hearings in the case were usually scheduled once every month but very often there was a gap of two to three months between hearings.

Repeated demands of survivors’ organization to set up a Special Prosecution Cell for effective and quick prosecution was turned down by the government.

4. What needs to be done to bring the absconding accused to trial?

As the Minister in charge, the Prime Minister must:

– create a Special Prosecution Cell in the CBI for effective and timely action on extradition of foreign accused and collection and presentation of evidence against the foreign accused.

– direct CBI to move on extradition of authorized representative of UCC and resend extradition request for Warren Anderson.

– direct CBI to follow the assets of Union Carbide Eastern Inc. to ensure that the representatives of the accused corporation face criminal trial.

– direct CBI to take action on illegal trading of UCC technology in India.

– direct CBI to take legal action so that summons issued against Dow Chemical, USA can be delivered.

Above all, there is need for sea-change in the political will of both the US and Indian administrations for broad assistance and mutual cooperation on the criminal prosecution of the foreign accused.

Share this:

Facebooktwitterredditmail

India orders arrest of American in Bhopal gas leak

NIRMALA GEORGE, Associated Press, July 31, 2009

NEW DELHI — An Indian court issued a warrant Friday for the arrest of the former head of the American chemical company responsible for a gas leak that killed at least 10,000 people in Bhopal 25 years ago.

Warren Anderson was the head of Union Carbide Corp. when its factory in the central Indian city leaked 40 tons of poisonous gas on Dec. 3, 1984 — the world’s worst industrial disaster.

More than 555,000 people who survived the initial disaster are thought to have suffered aftereffects, though the exact number of victims has never been determined. Many have died over the years from gas-related illnesses, like lung cancer, kidney failure and liver disease.

On Friday, in response to a recent appeal by a victims’ group, Prakash Mohan Tiwari ordered the arrest of Anderson, who is reportedly living in the U.S. Tiwari, who is the chief judicial magistrate of Bhopal, also ordered the federal government to press Washington for the American’s extradition.

Anderson was arrested immediately after the disaster, but he left the country soon after. The Indian government has since said that it did not know where he was, but CNN-IBN television recently reported he is in the Hamptons — a wealthy area outside New York.

In Bhopal, victims and civil rights activists who gathered outside the court cheered at the news of the order. They threw slippers at an effigy of Anderson and hit it with brooms, as they danced in the streets.

In 1989, Union Carbide paid $470 million in compensation to the Indian government and said officials were responsible for the cleanup. Victims accuse New Delhi of delaying distribution of the funds.

The government says its efforts were slowed when Nidland, Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co. took over Union Carbide in 2001, seven years after Union Carbide sold its interest in the Bhopal plant. Meanwhile, Dow maintains that the 1989 settlement resolved the legal case.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Share this:

Facebooktwitterredditmail