More than 25 years after the Bhopal disaster, eight people have been convicted for causing “death by negligence”. They include former senior officials of the Union Carbide company which owned the plant, including Keshub Mahindra, who was chairman of its Indian arm. The crime carries a maximum prison sentence of two years.
Campaigners have complained that the verdict is too little, too late, and have said it means the disaster has been treated “like a traffic accident.” Warren Anderson, Union Carbide’s chairman at the time of the accident, still notionally faces charges, and is officially regarded by the Indian courts as an “absconder.”
Forty tons of highly poisonous gas escaped from the plant. Union Carbide admitted that about 3,800 people died in the immediate aftermath. Campaigners claim that up to 20,000 more have perished since from the effects of the gas, with another 120,000 still suffering ill effects.
This would make it the deadliest industrial accident in history, though some environmentalists claim that Chernobyl may eventually outstrip it with deaths from cancer caused by its radiation eventually reaching 200,000. For more details, see A Disastrous History of the World. (See also my blogs of 1st Aug 2009 and 17th March 2010)