Can you ever imagine an Indian CEO, trapped in a similar situation like Union Carbide’s CEO Warren Andersen, getting unprecedented support of the top US authorities to escape conviction for causing death to thousands of Americans?
Never! Because Americans value the lives of their citizens and don’t trade the perpetrators of heinous crimes like Warren Anderson for small diplomatic gains. Once bitten, Americans are twice shy and it is evident from the fact that the US never allowed a repeat of 9/11 by taking unprecedented security measures.
The US never bothers about endangering time-tested bilateral ties, when it comes to defending the sovereignty and self esteem of its people.
However, the situation is different in India. I don’t say that Indians are not true nationalists, but we certainly lack the courage and conviction to take on powerful nations for a just cause.
Instead of forcing America, in a righteous manner, to extradite Wa
rren Anderson- a proclaimed offender in India for causing deaths due to negligence – and more recently David Headley, our leaders have always shielded themselves on the pretext of diplomacy.
India’s helplessness in getting influential people from mighty nations only points to the diplomatic failure of our policy makers in New Delhi. Until now, I have been a great admirer of the Congress leadership, its ideology, its vision, and its welfare initiatives for our countrymen.
However, the needle of suspicion that now points to the role that Congress played in Anderson’s escape has come as a big shock for me. At a time when the entire nation is bemoaning the Bhopal gas tragedy verdict as ‘too little and too late’, it is difficult to accept that the Congress government at the Centre and in Madhya Pradesh betrayed the people of India.
The evidence gathered by media and the startling disclosure by those who were involved in providing a safe exit to the American national, who should have stayed in India and faced justice for his crime, refutes Congress’ claim of championing the cause of the ‘Aam Admi’.
After watching the shocking television pictures of Anderson being driven to the airport and the then Bhopal Collector and SP escorting him in an Ambassador car, how can the Congress deny its role in Anderson’s escape? According to former Madhya Pradesh Aviation Director RS Sondhi and former pilot SH Ali, Anderson was flown out of Bhopal in a special plane.
The public outcry and opposition pressure is increasing day by day and Congress is now trying to save its face from embarrassment. The Grand Old Party seems desperately ducking for cover by urging attention towards proper rehabilitation of victims and the survivors of one of the biggest industrial disasters. But why didn’t they think of this earlier, and why have they woken up at a time when they are caught in a bitter political storm?
The embarrassment for Congress also stems from the fact that its own leaders are now holding its previous governments responsible for Anderson’s escape. Contradictory claims by the Congress leaders that its central leadership was unaware of the decisions taken by the Arjun Singh government are hard to digest.
One would only be a fool to assume that Arjun Singh would have decided to let Anderson, responsible for the deaths of so many as the CEO of Union Carbide, go scot-free on his own and without taking the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi into confidence.
Although, the Congress-led UPA government has sought to play down the controversy, saying all such issues would be looked into by the Group of Ministers (GoM) set up to probe issues related to the Bhopal gas disaster, it is difficult to believe that the truth will ever come out; unless of course, Arjun Singh, who is yet to break his silence, reveals his side of the story.
People of India want to know under what pressure Congress facilitated Anderson’s escape. Will it ever accept that it colluded with the Americans in helping Anderson and ignored the sufferings of people of Bhopal? Will the party ever fix the responsibility of its leaders who succumbed to US pressure? Why did the government accept compensation as little as USD 450 million for victims of the Bhopal tragedy?
After nearly 26 years of what seemed to be an endless wait, the court awarded a mere two year sentence to those who were found guilty for the tragic death of more than 22000(unofficial estimates) people. Is this not a denial of justice for the poor victims?
Probably, our leaders need to be reminded that 40 tonnes of poisonous methyl isocyanate leak from the Union Carbide plant killed and maimed thousands, who are yet to get compensation. Several survivors are still waiting to be recognized as victims by the government. Three decades after the tragedy, people of Bhopal continue to drink toxic water poisoned by Union Carbide in December 1984.
And the tragedy is that the man behind this disaster, (who failed to make his company meet safety compliance standards) has been living a comfortable life in a New York suburb. Congress may have won the people’s mandate for a second time, but in the future it will have to answer as to why it never bothered to press the US to extradite Anderson to face trial.
The ruling party may be in docks over the Bhopal tragedy and the Opposition may have got another opportunity to corner it for the time being, but the non-Congress governments cannot be spared either for not serving justice to the helpless victims.
Incidents like Bhopal only reflect the vanishing morality from our country’s politics, where voices of poor are still suppressed and justice still delayed if not denied. Are our unashamed political masters not then in the same league as the culprits?
(The views expressed by the author are personal)