New Delhi: A massive 82 per cent of Indians want to see the Union Carbide attend the Indian courts about its role in the gas leak at the Bhopal plant, says a new poll. The poll was carried out by YouGov for Amnesty International.
The survey show clear public support, in both India and the USA, for US corporation Union Carbide to face an Indian court over the Bhopal gas leak disaster which is estimated to have killed around 20,000 people dead and poisoned more than half a million, three decades back in 1984.
The Bhopal gas leak was India’s first major industrial disaster. Before it, governments in the country had handled floods, cyclones and earthquakes; but were not really geared or had the know how to respond to this catastrophe.
While fewer US respondents expressed a view, of those who did, almost two thirds (62%) agreed with that call. The corporation, on its behalf has consistently refused to answer charges of culpable homicide in the Indian courts.
“This poll shows that the verdict in the court of public opinion is clear. Justice has not been delivered for Bhopal, and people will not stand for it. It is an ongoing outrage against the people of this city that a foreign company charged with serious crimes has never faced justice in an Indian court,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, after visit to the site of the leak in Bhopal.
Amnesty’s Shetty pressed for an urgent need to bring Dow and Carbide to justice. Shetty urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to raise this with President Obama when he comes to the Indian Republic Day celebrations on January 26, 2015.
“Victims and survivors of the worst industrial disaster of our times can’t be asked to wait any longer. I am sorry to say that little has improved in their lives. 30 years is more than enough to wait. They can’t wait any longer; can’t wait for compensation, health care and clean water, can’t wait for clean up, can’t wait for the perpetrators of corporate crimes to be brought to justice,” he said.
Recently, the Indian government approved additional financial assistance for Bhopal gas victims with a hike in ex-gratia relief with the Cabinet approving assistance of Rs 1,265.56 crore for the medical and social rehabilitation of those affected by the world's worst industrial disaster.
Sunita Narain, director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said that Bhopal was struck by two tragedies, one that happened immediately, and the other that unfolded in the years to come: “Post-Bhopal, India improved its legislations for chemical industrial disasters and worker safety, but it is an unfinished business. Even if we have not seen (thankfully) another horrific human tragedy like on the night of December 2, 1984, the country continues to have many mini-Bhopals – industrial accidents, which take lives and throw up a huge challenge of hazardous waste contamination.”
The severe impact of toxic gases from the leak was on top of the pollution that was already being caused by the effluent waste from the plant that was contaminating the soil and groundwater.
The gas leak and the environmental pollution has caused serious health problems affecting not just women through gynaecological and reproductive health problems but all sections of the local community through respiratory illnesses, higher rates of cancer and reportedly even affecting the next generation of children suffering from higher rates of disability.