February 20, World Day of Social Justice 2019, what does it mean in Bhopal?

According to the United nations:

Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations.

“We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.”

But, these principles of coexistence often seem lacking when multinational corporations choose to invest in poor, third-world countries. In the case of Bhopal, a pesticide factory was designed and built to a decidedly lower standard than its ‘sister’ plant in the United States. It was run in a different way to its sibling and a succession of cost-cutting drives found it operating with insufficient safety systems and poorly trained staff attempting to keep enormous amounts of incredibly toxic chemicals under control. At the sister plant, there would never be much more than a few pounds of the highly volatile MIC gas in existence at any time; in Bhopal there were 40 tonnes of MIC stored in vast tanks the size of locomotive engines. MIC needs to be stored just above freezing point but the refrigeration system in Bhopal had been switched off to save a few dollars in electricity.

It’s a funny kind of coexistence and the resulting events, of December 1984, speak for themselves.

In the years since 1984, the coexistence seems hardly to have grown any more equitable for the survivors of the disaster with restitution sorely lacking. The disaster site has never been properly remediated and continues to poison thousands, on a daily, basis thanks to the contamination of local water supplies for miles around.

The legal aftermath appears similarly toxic with civil and criminal cases awaiting resolution close to three and a half decades after the event. The American accused have never faced an Indian court and the US Government refuses to extradite despite the existence of a ‘Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty’, signed by both India and the US, which requires it to do so.

Some coexistence.




Girl with candle Bhopal

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