Bhopal: Activists were furious on Monday that eight officials of Union Carbide had been convicted for the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster only for criminal negligence, which is punishable with a maximum of two years jail, despite the enormity of the tragedy.
"Today`s verdict is a disaster... they`ve made it look like a traffic accident," said Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, an NGO representing the survivors and an activist who has been involved with the victims since the 1984 disaster.
"The charges have been diluted. The victims are disappointed," he said.
A court here held eight former officials of Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) guilty of criminal negligence in the world`s worst industrial disaster.
The eight include Keshub Mahindra, who then headed UCIL, from whose pesticide plant here tonnes of lethal gas leaked on Dec 2-3, 1984 night, killing thousands instantly and many more later.
"We want the culprits to be punished adequately," Sarangi said.
Sarangi accused the Indian authorities of lacking political will to go after Warren Anderson, who headed Union Carbide, the parent company in the US.
"He knew everything (about the defective plant) but still let the gas leak happen. He has to be punished," he added.
Rashida Bi of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karamchari Sangh told a news agency: "This is complete injustice done to the 25,000 dead. It is a shameful verdict. We are extremely disappointed."
She alleged that the fundamental rights of the families of those who have suffered because of Union Carbide were violated by keeping them away from the court room.
"We will definitely appeal to the higher courts. If the prime minister is even a little concerned about our welfare, he should take action," said Rashida Bi, a survivor and an activist.
"Warren Anderson should be brought to India and imprisoned for at least 20 years," she added.
Tonnes of methyl iso-cyanate (MIC) spewed out of the now shut pesticide plant located in a congested part of the city. In the years that followed, people exposed to the gas kept dying. The death toll is believed to be about 25,000.