Bhopal,the capital of Madhya Pradesh,the stately aura all around endows this town with a distinguishing appeal that never fails to impress even the most discriminating tourists.This beautiful city of lakes is known for its laid back charm and is a part of the Malwa Plateau in the north-western part of Madhya Pradesh.It indeed is one of the important cities of the country. However,that is not the only talking point about Bhopal. The city has immense archaeological, historical and political importance attached to it. One of the oldest cities in India, it has today emerged as one of the busiest commercial centers.
When speaking about Bhopal, a glance on the history of the old city will enlighten anyone a lot. The origin of the city dates back to the eleventh century when Raja Bhoj founded the Bhojpal City. However the Bhopal of today was built during the eighteenth century by Dost Mohammed. Bhopal has been ruled by several famous dynasties like the Mughals, Rajputs and the Afghans. They have enriched the city’s landscape with beautiful monuments, lakes, palaces, temples and mosques.One of the most significant contributions was building up of one of the largest mosque in Asia,Taj-ul-Masajid.Among all the rulers of Bhopal,the most successful ruler was Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum and consequently,her son Nawab Hamidullah also took keen interest in the political affairs of the state and it was under his rule that this sleepy town was transformed into a developing city.
But it was in 1984,when this beautiful city witnessed an industrial catastrophe that occurred at the Union Carbide India Limited(UCIL) pesticide plant.At that time, UCIL was the Indian subsidiary of the U.S. company Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), which is now a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company.On December 3,1984,a ten meter curtain of gas ascended and infiltrated the atmosphere of Bhopal abruptly.It was due to the leakage of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other toxins from the plant that resulted in the exposure of over 5,00,000 people.”When I opened my eyes I saw bodies all over.Those were the dead bodies of small children,women and men of all ages in horrible condition”,says an eye witness.The factors for this devastating incident include the fact that no proven technology was used,safety systems were either being repaired or were shut to minimize costs,dangerous methods of manufacturing pesticides were chosen,there was large-scale storage of MIC before processing and the most critical factor was that the location of the plant was close to a densely populated area.Also,it was dependant on manual operations.
In 1992,the court summoned Warren Anderson,then CEO of UCIL and other management officials who were responsible for the mishap.In the meantime,Anderson had managed to escape to his home country,the US and later rejected to respond to the court.They were later declared to be absconders i.e they are fugitives from justice.Cancer and TB rose dramatically during this time.The govt. then sued Union Carbide for 3.3 billion USD,of which it advanced only 47o million for the deceased.Dow chemical also refused to give information on gas composition and its after-affects on human health.All this has made one point certain that the Indian judiciary still has amendments to make in its current system.May be an introduction of even more stringent laws may help catch the culprits of this tragedy. Even after 25 years,we get a verdict that doesn’t touch the real perpetrators.Imprisonment for merely two years and a fine of $2,000 is not enough to compensate for those 15,ooo innocent lives.
After 26/11,Ajmal Qasab was easily interrogated several times by the FBI because some American citizens too lost their lives in the Mumbai attacks.But we still have not been able to put any influence or exertion on US to have a private conversation with Anderson.If so is the situation,then expecting him to be given a punishment would just be foolish on our part.