Bhopal Gas Tragedy 1984 | The World’s Worst Industrial Disaster

December 6, 2013

Bhopal gas tragedy

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984 was the world’s worst industrial disaster.  It occurred at midnight on December 2, 1984.  The Union Carbide which was an American company had established a pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, with pathetic safety standards and working conditions in 1979.  The highly lethal and noxious poisonous gas methyl-isocyanite (MIC) leaked from the chemical plant on that tragic midnight.  Within a couple of days, nearly 8000 people died.  Nearly 50,000 Bhopal gas survivors were severely affected and suffer from all sorts of illnesses from severe respiratory disorders to blindness and have also died.  Most of the victims were very poor and vulnerable and lived in the slums surrounding the factory.  The world’s worst industrial tragedy makes us reflect on various issues including the Right to Life which is enshrined in the Indian constitution.  It also makes us dwell on the double standards and neo-imperialistic tendencies of some exploitative multinational companies which can go to any lengths to make profits.  It is also a sad reminder of the Indian government’s failure in many instances of ensuring that the constitution is upheld with laws protecting all Indians, especially the most vulnerable and powerless.

In the case of the ruthless and exploitative Union Carbide company, the company opened a plant in India in order to avail of cheap labor and make huge profits.  It did this by severely compromising on safety standards as well as other aspects like employing workers for longer hours with poor pay and working conditions.  By cutting down costs in such a deadly manner, the company set out to make huge profits and ended up being exposed for its callousness in 1984.  The same company had a plant in West Virginia with computerized safety systems and other high safety standards in place.  In spite of warnings by some municipal officials that the MIC plant was violating safety standards, the plant was set up with leaks being ignored by government officials.  The government regarded the investment that the company was making more important than the lives of poor Indians working in and around the factory.  With the right to information act in place and growing awareness regarding citizen’s rights, we as citizens of the country need to learn to hold the government accountable for its actions and ensure that the rights of all Indians are protected.

photo credit: Bhopal Medical Appeal via photopin cc

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