Last December marked the 25th anniversary of a mass horror perpetrated by one of America's richest and most powerful corporations – a horror that keeps growing.
Last December marked the 25th anniversary of a mass horror perpetrated by one of America’s richest and most powerful corporations – a horror that keeps growing.
During the night of December 3, 1984, Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked a 40-ton cloud of poison over the city. Nearly 4,000 of Bhopal’s men, women, and children died before daybreak, gasping for breath. Half a million more were enveloped in the corporation’s poison and horribly sickened, with many still suffering from severely damaged eyes and lungs. Another 15,000 have died since that night from the aftereffects of what Bhopalis now refer to simply as “the gas.”
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One who breaths freely, however, is Warren Anderson, Union Carbide’s CEO at the time. As recently reported by journalist Suketu Mehta, Anderson lives in luxurious retirement in the Hamptons. Neither he nor the corporation ever admitted any guilt, and the families of the people whom they killed received only an average of $2,200 in a rushed-up settlement. Union Carbide subsequently closed the factory, sold its Indian subsidiary, and left the country – without even cleaning up the deadly toxic waste it left behind in the factory.
In 2001, Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide, gaining all of its assets, but rejecting any of its liabilities. The $2,200 death payments, explained a Dow spokesman, were “plenty good for an Indian.”
Such cold arrogance stands as a lasting global monument to corporate immorality. As Mehta reports, “What’s missing in the whole sad story is any sense of a human connection between the faceless people who run the corporation and the victims.” Even after 25 years of the ongoing horror, Bhopal’s survivors still have not received the basic human courtesy of an apology for the gross wrong done to them.
And corporate executives wonder why they are despised.
“A Cloud Still Hangs Over Bhopal,” The New York Times, December 3, 2009.