I have been refraining myself from commenting, blogging or tweeting about the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill in US. So much so that I have been refusing to follow any news these days as they do pop this topic more often than not. I know, sooner and later, it will get me.
What got to me finally wasn’t the news about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill but the news about the rejection of extradition of Warren Anderson, former chairman and CEO of Union Carbide. Let me put the two news pieces in perspective for the readers who don’t know about one or both news articles.
So on April 20th 2010, a drilling rig in Gulf of Mexico (offshore US) exploded killing 11 workers. The oil from this well has been spilling in the Gulf of Mexico ever since. There have been many attempts to either cap off the spill or to collect the oil. There have been huge cry about this spill in US news. There is a public outrage against the company, which happen to be a British company operating on the US soil. The reason: there have been photographs of oil soaked birds on the front page of all the newspaper and American people, being so environment friendly (and yet, consuming 25% of oil production of the world) can’t bear and hence, the outrage.
Let’s go to the second news piece now. The year was 1984, place Bhopal a city in center India. On December 2nd of that year, there was yet another leak: Methyl Isocyanate escaped the plant of Union Carbide company and spread through the city killing, killing, about 22,000 humans. 22,000 human lives! After about 25 years of that leak, the region is still suffering from it’s aftermath in form of eye problems, respiratory difficulties, immune and neurological disorders, cardiac failure secondary to lung injury, female reproductive difficulties and birth defects among children born to affected women. Yep, even 25 years later. The cause of the leak? Cost cutting by the company leading to safety issues that finally resulted in the disaster.
A physiotherapist holds the leg of a seven year old child at a clinic run by a non-governmental organization to cater to victims of the gas tragedy in Bhopal, India. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das; Nov., 2009). Image is linked to the source.
Yet again, it was a foreign company operating in the country of disaster. Only the company was American, Union Carbide. 25 years later (yes, I know. Indian Judicial system sucks. They took 25 years to do so..), Indian government requests for the extradition of then chairman and CEO of Union Carbide, Warren Anderson, an American citizen. They are rejected by US government!
The man responsible for the 22,000 deaths is going free while Americans are shouting themselves hoarse for few oil soaked birds.
How is that fair?
P.S.: 1. Warren Anderson was arrested on December 7th, 1984 and later let out on the bail. He is absconding ever since. Wish we had stringent airport securities back then!
2. And yes, he knew about the possible safety risk. An year before the tragedy happened, a worker died due to a leak in the plant. And to quote then Bhopal police chief Swaraj Puri, who arrested Warren Anderson and later died due to the exposure:
“When an employee dies, the whole management knows about it. So, it will be a lie if Anderson says he did not know about the leak and the death of an employee.”
4. I don’t mean to belittle the suffering of the families who lost their family members on April 20th, 2010 or the fishermen who are impacted by the oil spill. I just want to draw attention to something else, something worse, by contrast.
Bhopal Gas Tragedy is just one such case (though one of the worst), there are other such cases where an American company got away after doing lot worse than what’s happening in GoM, without paying ANYTHING (honestly, they didn’t pay anything for human lives lost or for cleaning up the mess after them, unlike BP). As long as it doesn’t affect US environment or US people, it is okay. American birds are more precious than the human lives around the world.
* All images are linked to their source.