Thursday, December 3, 2009

Profits Before People

Bhopal, India marks 25 years since the worst industrial accident in history. The official death toll was 3000 people killed when poison gas leaked from a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide. Others estimate that 7000 to 8000 people died that day. The final death toll of all affected may be 15000. Wells in the area still have toxins 1000 times in excess of international standards.
Union Carbide paid out $460 million in compensation to the Indian government, not quite the annual salary of one CEO. It has paid no compensation directly to the city of Bhopal or to its residents. The company has yet to acknowledge any responsibility for the accident.

Here is an essay by NYU journalism professor Suketu Mehta pointing out how international law is so arranged to allow Dow Chemical (the creator of napalm which now owns Union Carbide assets) to escape all liability for the disaster. He points out that the former Union Carbide executive at the time of the disaster, Warren Anderson, lives in luxurious retirement in the Hamptons despite numerous international warrants for his arrest. Mehta wonders what the reaction would be if an Indian executive evaded the law after being responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans.


Unknown said...

Thinking back to when the news broke on this terrible event the first thought that crossed my mind was, "Of course it's an arrogant American company responsible!" (In anger of course.) What is sad is that this image stood for the American way of life to many around the world afterward.

Not all companies from the States are this way of course but that "Ugly American" image has certainly been enhanced by companies like this who (They are run by people after all!)put profits before people.


David G. said...

And one wonders why the U.S. hasn't been attacked more often, ..with legacies like this to fall back on!!