Today marks the one year passing of Dr. Daya Ram Varma. His son Rahul Varma has shared the following words about his father, the Bhopal Gas Disaster, and his play Bhopal. Thank you Rahul for sharing this with us.
“When the Union Carbide plant exploded, killing over 2500 people overnight, and while company bosses, corporate lobbyists and media were busy establishing whose fault it was, my father flew to India and started collecting data from the survivors and victims — data which would later become the subject of his research and, eventually, potential evidence against the corporation. He told me that the impact of this poison gas (MIC or methyl isocyanate) would haunt not only the present but the generation to come. He told me that those not yet born at the time of the explosion would carry devastating effects of the MIC, a fact which was kept hidden as a trade secret.
When I sit down to pen a play, one of my primary subjects for contemplation is how this play might be distinct from other plays written on the same theme. My father’s one-liner, “MIC will haunt the generation yet to be born” – became that distinct idea of the play that premiered in 2001, and which was subsequently published, translated and produced in French, Hindi and Punjabi.
Dr. Sonya Labonte, a character in the play, was inspired and informed by my father’s work. I based this character on him to honour his prophetic thinking. He pursued his research and produced scientific facts and published papers exposing the corporate culpability. He could not be silenced. Once, at a scientific conference in Pittsburgh, USA, he walked up to and scolded Union Carbide hired doctor Hans Weill, who infamously said that MIC would be hydrolyzed and roll out of the Bhopal victims’ eyes. My father warned him never to go to India.”
“The record settlement of $18.7 billion that the oil company BP has arrived at in the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster case in the United States has naturally revived the debate on the denial of justice to the victims of a far bigger catastrophe — the Bhopal gas leak. As industrial accidents go, the blowout in BP’s well in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was staggering, killing 11 people and spectacularly devastating an already stressed marine ecosystem with millions of barrels of oil. Five State governments and the federal government of the U.S. have been vigorously pursuing penalties and compensation claims with the company, resulting in the settlement. Yet, the impact of the oil spill pales in comparison with the magnitude of what happened at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal in 1984.
Warren Anderson, responsible for the world’s biggest industrial disaster at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India that claimed over 25,000 lives and counting, has died at 92. Anderson had a quote engraved on his desk that said, ”Leader is best when people barely know he exists.” He lived by that rule.
The death of Warren Anderon, the CEO of Union Carbide at the time of the disaster, has only just come to light, even though he died over a month ago. Since 1984, the survivors of the world’s worst chemical disaster have been suffering because of the actions of this man. For 30 years the survivors have asked for Anderson – the “Butcher of Bhopal” – to go in front a court of law and be judged for his negligent actions. But he refused to submit to a higher power than himself, and the United States government shielded him.
His death, like most of his life since the disaster, was a secret – he kept himself hidden away, refusing to admit to the fact that he and his company could have prevented the disaster from occurring if they had chosento. Instead – as CEO he put profits over people – and because of this, the survivors of Bhopal will never forgive him.
Over the years, ICJB has made many posters demanding the extradition of Warren Anderson. Below are some of our best anti-Anderson and anti-UCC posters. Check out even more on our revamped Campaign Resources page.
The post below was originally published by the editors of Bhopal.net over 12 years ago, on September 8, 2002. Even though Anderson died in September 2014, the fight for justice lives on. This post’s original conclusion, “[Anderson] and his wife must have been hoping Bhopal had gone away. But Bhopal will never go away. Not until there is justice.” still rings true – Bhopal will never leave Warren Anderson. He will go down in history as a man who knowingly put profit and greed over the lives of tens of thousands of people. He will go down in history as a murderer.
BRIDGEHAMPTON, LONG ISLAND: Ex-Carbide CEO Warren Anderson is clearly startled by all the media attention focussed on him since a court in Bhopal reaffirmed on 28 August that he is wanted for the homicide of 20,000 Bhopalis, and called for his immediate extradition. He must really have thought he’d got away with it. Warren has been ignoring the court’s summonses and Interpol’s arrest warrant for more than a decade. How is it, Channel 4 asked last week, that US authorities have apparently been unable to trace him, when it turns out he has been living openly at his house in Long Island’s exclusive Hamptons district? (Channel 4 found the address, incidentally, on our website.)