India marks 30th anniversary of Bhopal disaster
BHOPAL, INDIA // Hundreds of survivors of the Bhopal gas leak took to the streets to mark the 30th anniversary of the world’s worst industrial disaster on Wednesday.
Protesters demanded harsher punishments for those responsible and more compensation for the victims of the tragedy.
On December 3, 1984, a pesticide plant run by Union Carbide leaked about 40 tons of deadly methyl isocyanate gas into the air of the central Indian city of Bhopal, quickly killing about 4,000 people.
Lingering effects of the poison pushed the death toll to about 15,000 over the next few years, according to government estimates.
In all, at least 500,000 people were affected, the government says.
Thirty years later, activists say thousands of children are born with brain damage, missing palates and twisted limbs because of their parents’ exposure to the gas or water contaminated by it.
The disaster remains an open wound in India, where many consider Union Carbide’s $470 million (Dh1,726m) settlement with the Indian government an insult.
The tragedy still haunts Ram Pyari.
“Everything was destroyed,” she said during an evening vigil on Tuesday. “And my sons and my daughter-in-law died, my leg was amputated. I have to drag myself. These killers did not heed anything. Why are they not brought to court? Why are they not hanged?”
In the poor neighbourhoods behind the Union Carbide plant, where the worst of the tragedy unfolded some 600 kilometres south of New Delhi, survivors and their relatives and supporters burned effigies of Warren Anderson, who headed Union Carbide at the time of the leak, and a banner emblazoned with the logo of Dow Chemical, which bought Union Carbide.
Angry protesters spit on the effigies before they were set on fire.
Anderson died in September in a nursing home in Vero Beach, Florida. Just after the disaster, he travelled to India, where he was arrested.
He left the country while free on bail and never returned.
In 2011, the Indian government made a renewed push to extradite Anderson, then 90, from the United States, without success. Prosecutors wanted to try him on culpable-homicide charges.
Anderson remained a focus of much of the anger of those who survived the gas leak, a symbol of what they perceive as the lack of accountability of big multinational corporations.
Dow Chemical says it has no liability because it bought Union Carbide more than a decade after the cases had been settled.
* Associated Press
Updated: December 3, 2014 04:00 AM