Double Standard: BP and Bhopal

When President Barak Obama went after BP and demanded a $20 billion dollar fund be set up for victims of the Gulf oil spill, the people of India were furious.  They saw a US double standard.  The US demonstrated it values human life within the US more than the lives of the people of India.   

BP should pay $20 billion in compensation, probably even more. The people of India agree with that.   

But people are angry because the US is treating the oil spill, called the worst environmental disaster in US history, in a radically different way than the US treated the explosion of a US-owned pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, which some call the worst industrial disaster in history.  

The 1984 Bhopal explosion released tons of toxic chemicals into the air, claimed the lives of between 15,000 and 20,000 people within two weeks, and disabled hundreds of thousands of others – many still suffering from physical damage and genetic defects.  

The plant that exploded was operated by Union Carbide India Limited, a corporation owned by Union Carbide of the United States.  

The disaster occurred in a thickly populated area close to the central railway station in Bhopal, an urban area of 1.5 million in the heart of India.  Most people in the area lived in shanty huts.   

Thousands of dead humans and animals filled the streets of Bhopal.  Survivors complain of genetic damage which has caused widespread birth defects in children and even grandchildren of those exposed.   

The soil and water of Bhopal remain toxic with heavy pesticide residue and toxic metals like lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and chromium.   

While President Obama displayed outrage at BP officials over the 11 deaths from the US oil spill, the US has refused to extradite Warren Anderson, the chair of Union Carbide, to face charges for his role in the Bhopal disaster.  

Recall too that Obama advisor, Larry Summers, then chief economist at the World Bank, stated in an infamous 1971 memo.  “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the Less Developed Countries?… I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted…”  

Obsolete and hazardous industries have been systematically transferred to the third world countries to not only exploit the cheap labor but also to avoid disastrous mpact of these industries on the advanced countries.  

Union Carbide put profit for the corporation above the lives and health of millions of people.  Dow Chemical, which took over Union Carbide, is attempting to distance itself from all responsibility.  

In India there were two Bhopal developments this month.  The Indian government announced a compensation package of $280 million for Bhopal victims, about $22,000 for each of the families of the deceased according to the BBC, and seven former Indian managers of the Bhopal plant were given two year jail sentences for their part in the explosion.  These legal developments are a mockery of justice for one of the world’s greatest disasters.   

We call on the people of the US and the people of India to join together to demand our governments respect the human rights of all people, no matter where they live.  

Together we must bring about change in corporate development.  We have to emphasize social production for the needs of people and improved social relations.   

If we continue to value some lives more than others, and to allow corporations to spoil some areas with impunity, our world will not last.   Unless we respect the human rights of all people and demand corporations do that as well, we will be damned to live out the Cree Indian prophecy:  “Only when the last tree from this earth has been cut down, only when the last river has been poisoned, only when the last fish has been caught, only then will humankind learn that money cannot be eaten”.

Bill Quigley is the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. You can reach him at: quigley77@gmail.com. Alex Tuscano directs Praxis, a human rights organization in Banglore India. You can reach him at: alextuscano@gmail.com. Read other articles by Bill Quigley and Alex Tuscano.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on July 2nd, 2010 at 12:36pm #

    Had enough yet total focus calm at peace they are not. Should we wait until they pass or not a climate bill a joke on the human race, no. Capital one voice only a start focus loud and clear how is the question. I need some coffee there must be away?

  2. Don Hawkins said on July 2nd, 2010 at 3:25pm #

    http://www.chesapeakeclimate.org/detail/campaign.cfm?id=152

    Despite the Gulf disaster, no one from BP has been arrested and sent to jail. Despite safety violations at coal mines, no one from Massey Energy has been handcuffed. But today I write to inform you that one of America’s best global warming activists is probably facing several months of jail. He’s been convicted by a D.C. jury, and now he awaits sentencing on July 6th. Why? Because he peacefully dropped two banners on Capitol Hill that said: “GREEN JOBS NOW” and “GET TO WORK.”

    I’m not joking. Ted Glick of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network was convicted by a jury May 13th of peacefully dropping the banners inside the U.S. Senate Hart Office Building last September. The D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office clearly has decided to make an “example” of Ted because of his previous two — count ‘em, two — convictions related to peaceful acts of climate civil disobedience. Can you believe it?

    There must be away.

  3. Don Hawkins said on July 3rd, 2010 at 4:36am #

    Oh did anybody happen to notice the heat wave here in the States how unusual probably a 100 year event and some talk about the old power grid key word here is old. Oh just on the off chance Fox News or old Beck our out there any thoughts today fit into your model of the world your vision so to speak.