Somebody had once said “The most positive thing in life is when we set our alarms at night, with complete confidence that we are going to be able to hear it the next morning and wake up.” This thought seems gets driven home when one witnesses the horrors of the Bhopal gas tragedy. On December 3rd, 1984, almost an entire town died in their sleep when the deadly fumes of methyl isocyanate leaked out of the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal at night. The people, who did wake up, suffered serious and instant injuries as soon as they opened their eyes – most of them were blinded instantly. Even 20 years later, the children of the survivors continue to be born with physical disabilities. The horror and the agony of it all, one would think, would touch even a stone heart.
Apparently not. The recent events have proved that Indian politicians are beyond human emotions and humanity in itself. Had such an event occurred in any other developed country, it would be dealt with extreme severity, and would have been given the highest level of importance. For example, in the BP oil spill case in the US that killed 11 people and many dolphins, BP has been heavily penalised not only for the human lives and the loss of property, but for each dolphin that died. And this decision was made within a matter of few weeks. Where as in India, the unfortunate victims who were promised justice 25 years ago, had their old wounds reopened, exposed and salted last week, when the court awarded the culprits – the board of directors of the Union Carbide company a pathetic 2 years of prison time – bailable for a meagre Rs 25000. The victims received less than that amount – and that too, not all of them have been compensated. The main culprit, CEO OF UCIL, Mr. Anderson, had been allowed to escape to the safe confines of the US 25 years ago.
There is no doubt regarding who is to blame. There is absolutely no doubt, about who made calls to whom, and how many Swiss bank accounts were credited during this incident. Yet, even now, politicians continue to fool the public with their pathetic blame games. They feel that in raising irrelevant points, and by pushing the blame around, until the next major piece of news comes up to divert the attention of the media, the public’s demands can be stalled. However, they must realise that after witnessing so many years of their games, the public is no longer innocent or gullible. Everybody knows exactly what they are up to, and by playing their games, they are only managing to raise the disgust and the contempt of the people.
Yet, some factors remain – if the government were to modify laws such that strict action could be taken against the management of companies in case of such events, the insurance costs would shoot up, thus raising the amount of investments MNC would have to make. It would also mean a tighter exit route for them. This would reduce the number of investments in India, and even with the existing ones, the costs would get reflected in the market – the cost of electricity, cooking gas, and other products like food, etc would shoot up. And again, people would blame the government.
Justice in America was served, true. But this was also because the people there are ready to pay the price. Citizens of western developed nations pay extremely high taxes on their salaries, which are unavoidable. They also pay extremely huge amounts on insurance (which again is compulsory and unavoidable), basic utilities like electricity and gas, telephone bills, etc. Will this be acceptable to the spoilt Indian consumer – who is used to paying the lowest prices in the world on almost all items (except petrol and diesel)? No one will say. And meanwhile, the politicians continue with their blame games, the media continues to have a ball, and the hapless victims of the tragedy continue to suffer their losses.