Monday, June 07, 2010
India / Structural Violence
Seven Union Carbide Employees Convicted over 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster
By Jeremy Page
The Independent, June 7, 2010
Photo: "Shemon Gonsalves, 8, one of hundreds of children born with disabilities after the pesticide leak at the Union Carbide plant" (Reinhard Krause/Reuters).
"An Indian court found seven people guilty of negligence today for failing to prevent a gas leak in the city of Bhopal that killed thousands of people in 1984 in one of the world's worst industrial accidents. But the seven former employees of Union Carbide’s Indian subsidiary face a maximum sentence of just two years in prison, outraging activists who said the penalty was the same as that for causing a traffic accident. Those convicted included Keshub Mahindra, the 86-year-old multi-millionaire chairman of tractor maker Mahindra & Mahindra who was chairman of Union Carbide India Ltd at the time of the accident. The seven men -- all Indian -- could be the first people to face jail in a 26-year legal battle that has highlighted the inefficiency of India's judicial system, and stirred a global debate about corporate liability for industrial accidents. However, their maximum sentence is limited because the Supreme Court reduced the charges in 1996 from culpable homicide to criminal negligence. Activists and relatives of the victims, many of whom gathered outside the court today, denounced the verdict as 'too little, too late' and warned that it could lead to further industrial accidents. [...]"