Are we prepared to deal with another Bhopal Gas Tragedy? With Civil Nuclear Liabilities Bill its hard to imagine

The victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, one of the world’s worst disasters are still facing the consequences of the unfortunate incident. The legal framework in 1985 was inadequate to conduct a fair trial of Union Carbide and its CEO Warren Anderson. The U.C.C paid a settlement amount of 470 million dollars to the victims, considering it as its moral obligation. No criminal or civil proceedings were initiated against the notorious Multinational Union Carbide. The decision of Bhopal Gas Tragedy still considered a black chapter in the judicial history of India.

Instead of rectifying the flaws that were observed in the Bhopal Disaster Case, the United Progressive Alliance (U.P.A) government was planning to put forth the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill. However due to the mass opposition from all the sectors of the society, the government had to eventually withdraw its scheduled introduction in the Parliament.

The Nuclear Liability bill was highly criticized on its provisions related to compensation including capping of nuclear operator liability, fixing maximum liability amount and the absence of direct liability of supplier. It is also contended that the maximum liability mentioned in the bill is the minimum liability considered in United States.

The government is also planning to be a part of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC), which is funded by the International Atomic Energy Association. The convention which is yet to be operational is so far ratified by only four countries amongst which U.S.A is the only country with most of the nuclear installations. The parties to the convention contribute to an international fund which is then utilized to provide additional compensation beyond liability to the member states.

The bill clearly states that a three-tier compensation scheme would be instituted on occurrence of any nuclear accident. The maximum liability enumerated is 300 million Special Drawing Rights (i.e. Rs 2,100 crore). However Russia has fixed  no maximum liability in such cases.

Unlike in countries like Germany and Finland, the bill fixes the liability of the operator to mere Rs 500 crores or 109 million dollars. When compared to the inadequate compensation granted in Bhopal gas tragedy (470 million dollars) the amount is found extremely low. It is also argued that capping liability is contrary to the judgment passed in the Oleum Gas Leak case. The Supreme Court in the judgment stated that the liability in such cases must be strict and absolute.

Further, the Clause 17-a of the bill has positioned an indirect and remote liability on the supplier. The right to recourse is only provided in cases of gross negligence or wilful act on the part of the supplier. However it does not include supply of defective articles. Any further appeal in a civil court is disallowed, if it is decided by Claims Commissioner or a Nuclear Damage Claims Commission, which deal with potential nuclear damage claims under the Clause 35.

It is unfortunate that the provisions of the bill are detrimental to the interests of its own citizens. The bill not only infringes upon the fundamental rights of the individuals by debarring their right to appeal and limiting right to recourse. It also enforces a heavy burden on the tax payers of the country. Relying on a convention which is yet to be operational, for supplementary compensation is highly flawed policy decision by the government. The consequences of a nuclear accident would be far more adverse than that of Bhopal Gas Tragedy. The government must reconsider its proposals for the betterment of the society at large.

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Being in Bhopal, How Can I Forget This Day – A Gas Tragedy That Ruined Lives

Bhopal Twenty Five Years On From Union Carbide Disaster

Midnight 2-3 December changed lives of the thousands of people living in Bhopal. One of the most prosperous industrial cities was changed into a graveyard.

The gross negligence of Union Carbide lead to one of the biggest industrial disaster throughout the world. Methyl Isocynade and other toxins released from the disaster resulted in around 20,00o deaths. The official figures have never revealed the real estimates. OFFICIALLY the disaster was not of that greater magnitude as presupposed by the victims or the activists. They believe that the miseries of people are just exaggeration of reality. The people are pretending to have chronic diseases and the congenital deformities in their children is a myth.

There were number of hospitals established to treat the victims of Bhopal Gas tragedy who were effected by serious respiratory, vision and  skin diseases. But now the hospital administration believe that other patients are more worthy of treatment and that is why the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Victims have to wait for hours to get their Chemotherapy. They are generally attended in afternoons at the convenience of the doctors. Most the victims are not covered under the ambit of relief because they did not possess rashion cards.

It is unfortunate that our leaders never realized that the victims of the saga were not from elite societies but were mostly poor and destitute who were deprived of both education and resources. They were the people who were unable to understand the ENGLISH spoken in the courts, they were the people who could not afford trips to Supreme Court and they are the people who still don’t know the names of the disease they are suffering from. They were twice victimised once when the gas leaked and again when the fought for justice.

Bhopal Tragedy  still awaits a decesion. What was done was only a settlement of 470 million dollars. And ironically the Supreme Court did not consider children below age of 12 years as victims. May be the gas chosed to effect people according to their age. Most of the victims could not convince the administration in spite of their miseries.

People have been writing PIL’s to Supreme Court but the most of the people consider the matter closed. No criminal prosecution was ever held on Union Carbide. The settlement that was done was on ex gratia payment and as a moral duty. People who were associated with Union Carbide were later on promoted with high judicial and admistrative positions. The trial was a mockery of the Indian Legal System. The victims were victimised again and again and the criminal were given special treatment in the embassy.

The accident site still contains hazardous materials which have not been cleared by the government or by the Union Carbide. The underground water of the place is contaminated with toxins. The people are forced to consume such non potable water because they can afford either medicines or potable water.

In 1991 came the Liberalization, Privatization and Globalisation Policy of the country since then India have progressed drastically but the Victims of Bhopal Saga  are still there where they were in 1984.

Things have not changed for them they still meet every Sunday in parks and discuss their sorrows. They have little means to support themselves the only thing keeping their struggle alive is their zeal to fight against injustice done to them but if there interests are constantly ignored then a day would come when Bhopal Gas Tragedy would be just an unfortunate incident and not a disaster.

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