The Bhopal Marathon: The Strange Voyage of Warren Anderson (Part 3.)

Warren Anderson Union Carbide chairman at the time of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster

This is the story of Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide Corporation at the time of the disaster, and still wanted in India on the criminal charge of Culpable Homicide.


Part 3.
Of course you’d had to cut costs. What other choice, when the plant was losing so much money? Should have acted sooner, got rid of it as soon as stuff started going wrong. The waste ponds were leaking with who knows what consequences. It was clear that you had to cut your losses and get the hell out.

We imagine you with your mind full of worries. If things had been a little different – if you’d managed to sell the plant, dismantle it, ship it somewhere like Brazil or Indonesia. But you had problems finding a buyer to take the naphthol unit as of course the technology was unproven – and if they ever – Wait!–What’s this?

There was a phone beside the bed. You picked up the receiver. Got a dial tone! The ambassador was properly calming. Nothing to worry about. You’ll be going home soon.

The day was passing and it was mid-afternoon before the airport pair showed up again. The thin official seemed angry but apologetic. There had been a mistake. You were to be released, a plane had been arranged to fly you toDelhi, thence to New York. They were eager to leave right away but you told them you had to wait a couple of hours. It was not yet dawn in America.

They asked you for your name and address. The cop scribbled on a bit of paper and asked you to sign it. It was a bail bond. I, Warren Anderson… am resident at 63/54 Greenidge Hills Drive, Greenidge, Connecticut, USA. You were about to correct him: Greenwich, not Greenidge. Nope. Leave it. Let their incompetence show. Bail was set at 25,000 rupees.

‘How much is that?’ you asked. ‘I don’t have any rupees.’

No one was very keen to lend you the cash, but the police press-ganged a junior guest house employee into standing surety for you. It was important that news of your escape did not get out before you left India. The press were at the front gate pushing their faces into every car going in or out, looking for you.

‘We will take you by another route, Mr Anderson,’ said the cop.

This is where, if that journalist guessed right, you did your Bonny Prince Charlie style escape.

The back gate of the guest house grounds couldn’t have been used in years. It was padlocked and the key was lost. They had to lift it off its hinges. The sun was setting as they walked you down a jungly hillside to the water’s edge and waiting boat. December is chill on the lake, you were shivering as the light faded. On the far bank a car was waiting.

‘House arrest or no house arrest,’ you said, ‘bail or no bail, I am free to go home…There is a law of the United States… India, bye bye, thank you.’

They did not know if you were mocking, but the cop saluted as you boarded the plane.
As your flight climbed away, you saw a necklace of lights glimmering on the lake: the old city of Bhopal.
As you flew away from the carnage you never saw, we wonder whether you realised that you would never be free of this place, that thereafter no day of your life would pass without being haunted by the horror and pity of what had happened here.

You can read the complete Bhopal Marathon publication online here

Girl with candle Bhopal

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