Global media censures Indian govt on Bhopal

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 17:28

London/New York: Labelling the Bhopal gas
tragedy as world`s worst industrial accident, global media has
censured the Indian government for "a callous" and "confused"
approach to corporate liability and warned it against luring
foreign companies with low limits on liability.

Describing the court verdict in the case as
"inappropriate punishment" after almost a quarter of a century
since the disaster, the international media overwhelmingly
held the Indian government and the judiciary responsible for
the travesty.

Pointing fingers at the controversial Civil Nuclear
Liability Bill, now before Parliament, international media
commented that the legislation continued to set a low bar on
liability in order to attract foreign companies and
governments.

The leading papers were also equally unsparing on
American multinational company Dow Chemicals for refusing to
clean up the site as well as on US administration, saying it
had not emerged with great honour by blocking India`s request
for extradition of the former Union Carbide chairman Warren
Anderson.

Britain`s `The Times` said, under the Bill, a central
part of the controversial 2008 Indo-US nuclear pact, the
liability for nuclear disaster would be capped at USD 460
million - far below likely clean up cost.

It said, in the US, each nuclear plant is required to pay
into a fund that could pay out some USD 10 billion in case of
exigencies.

"Clearly companies need confidence about potential
liabilities, if they are to invest. But India is asking too
little," the paper said.

`The Times` commented that, the Indian court system took so
long and downgraded charges to negligence despite reports of
clear mismanagement. It also said, the Dow Chemicals which had
taken over the Union Carbide in 1999 too bore responsibility
for not cleaning up the site.

On Monday, after over 25 years, eight people were
convicted for one of the world`s major industrial disasters
and sentenced two years in prison. While one of the accused is
dead, the other seven were granted bail in a case in which
more than 15,000 people were killed.

The Indian legal system also came in for sharp criticism
by the US media.

`The New York Times` said that Indian courts are
notoriously slow and claimed that the Bhopal verdict indicated
that the wealthy can outwit Indian judiciary.

"It could be extraordinary for something like this to
happen in US.... regardless of the merits of pronouncing any
verdict the courts have to decide fast so that the decision
has consequences," the paper said.

The Bhopal gas verdict has touched a chord in US and it
has come at a time when the Americans are struggling with the
Gulf Coast oil spill.

`The New York Times` said activists are seeking to get
the Dow Chemicals to clean up almost 425 tonnes of hazardous
waste still left on the accident site.

A repetition of Bhopal tragedy is hard to imagine,
Britain`s `The Time` commented saying, that in today`s world
Internet and television would whip up a global fury.

"But the view that politicians can set companies
undemanding rules to further other goals remains intact in
many places -- not least in India," it said.

"New Delhi has done little to dispel many Indians` old
suspicion of foreign investment, a mistrust their country
cannot afford," `The Times` summarised.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 17:28

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