June 10, 2010

American Birds and Human Lives

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 Bhopal Gas Tragedyescaped 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.”

3. A better post, by Annie, on the subject matter can be found here.

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.


  1. I've been following that Warren Anderson case closely lately and it's a shame. How can these people be so careless and live guilt-free after what they did? How can they not think about the misery that they've brought upon so many lives? How can they not understand the value of life? SIGH.

  2. Oh, I am infuriated, enraged. They are the reason I have refused to listen to news these days. And honestly, it's just not India. there are numerous stories from all over the world, especially countries in Africa. Simply search for oil spills in Nigeria. and then America wonder why they have such a negative image in the world.

    The value of an American bird is far more than value of human lives. I blame the media. They are the ones who decide which story is important and which isn't. And apparently dead people in an undeveloped or developing country don't matter. Birds in GoM do.

  3. Completely agree!! reading news these days is pure torture most of the times. US refusing to take any action, on the basis of insufficient evidence against anderson is so lame.. The US knows Anderson is guilty, they have to.... why else would he run away from india if he was not guilty days after the tragedy. They just feel, because they are the 'self proclaimed' super power, they can do anything they want. Including valuing lives of humans outside GoM less that those here! grrrrr

  4. I read this amazing book called Animal's People by Indra Sinha - it's about delayed justice and about political support (fiction) that helped the perpetrators get away with such a horrendous crime.

    The double standards are shocking...

  5. Good post! The more we write the more we help spread awareness.

    Shame on Indian Government for not standing up for the common man whom they are elected to serve. The audacity to help Anderson make haste in the official flight used by the Chief Minister paid for by the aam admi gets me indignant every time I think of it!!

    So much for the 'change has come' movement from Mr.President. Maybe it's restricted only to anyone holding an American passport or is it? He'd like to see BP pay every dime it owes to American citizens while ensuring in event of a mishap American operators go scot free, again

    I read a comment on the ndtv website - So Warren Anderson came to India and killed 1000s of Indians, should we not now wage war of terror against the US?

    Hypocrisy seems the norm with the Western World that dump their waste still in poorer countries of Africa and Asia. It never mattered that iPad cost lives of poor innocents in China, it still is the most wanted gadget that flew off the shelves!

  6. Oh yes! Even though I haven't been following the news at all, the bits and pieces that did reach me, got me so angry. I am refusing to read any news regarding either disaster, so I am boycotting the news sites completely at the moment (I just can't get worked up at the moment with looming deadlines and all). And yet got the news from various FB statuses and blogs anyway, and have been simmering ever since..

  7. Will do, in about a month though. Though I am not sure I can handle any more rage and anger. News are too much to handle at times..

  8. Been thinking about this as well. Not that I want the American environment or wildlife to be harmed, but it's amazing what little premium is placed on Indian lives. But then, when our own government betrays us, why shd we expect a foreign one to care?

  9. I agree with Apu... "Not that I want the American environment or wildlife to be harmed, but it's amazing what little premium is placed on Indian lives. But then, when our own government betrays us, why shd we expect a foreign one to care?

  10. Agreed.

    We do have our own sets of problem, but it doesn't give US right to protect a mass murderer. Right?