ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Learning Nothing from Bhopal

Plug loopholes and implement existing laws rather than bring in new laws.

The world’s worst industrial disaster, Bhopal 1984, cannot and should not be forgotten. It is only right that on every anniversary – including this year marking 30 years since deadly methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal felled more than 2,000 in one night and thousands more in the following years and decades – we revisit this tragedy. But is it enough to speak of that night of horror and the travesty of justice that has followed? Is it not equally important to evaluate whether India has tightened up on the location of hazardous industries, set in place disaster management in the event of a disaster like Bhopal, ensured justice and compensation for victims of accidents and put in place punitive legal measures that discourage the owners of hazardous industries from being cavalier about safety procedures as were the owners of the Bhopal pesticide plant?

From the data available about industrial accidents in the last decades, it is evident that there have been many smaller Bhopals. According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), there have been 130 chemical accidents between 2003 and 2013 leading to 259 deaths and 563 serious injuries. These are the recorded incidents. In addition, every other day one reads of smaller incidents, such as the recent dumping of hazardous effluents into a river in Ulhasnagar on the outskirts of Mumbai that led to several hundred people being hospitalised when the chemicals reacted with the water. This waste material was from factories located across the border in Gujarat. Is there any monitoring of hazardous effluent disposal? Is anyone held responsible?

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