Tolmezzo, Italy: Acclaimed journalist Lalit Shastri has expressed serious concern as none of the perpetrators of the 1984 gas disaster – the main functionaries of the US multinational Union Carbide Corporation (UCC)- have been sentenced for causing the worst Industrial catastrophe in the world which has so far claimed more than 20,000 lives and affected at least 500,000 people.
It is a tragedy that the then Chairman of UCC Warren Anderson is dead without facing trial, Shastri observed adding what is most unfortunate is that serious efforts were not made for the extradition of Anderson, who was declared an absconder by the Bhopal Court hearing the Carbide case.
Shastri, author of “Bhopal Disaster – An Eyewitness Account” and Bhopal Disaster – 38 Years” was addressing dignitaries and politicians of Fruili-Venezia-Guilia Region on the Bhopal gas disaster in Tolmezzo on Monday 28 November 2022.
Ex-MP, Member of the Defence Commission and former President of Fruili-Venezia-Guilia Region Renzo Tondo presided the Conference. Prominent among the audience included, Prof De Toni Alberto, Rector of the University of Udine , Sergio Cuzzi, ex-Mayor Tolmezzo, Gianni Somma, Director Consortium of Industries, Renzo Petris, Patricia Della Pietra, both ex-Members of Regional Parliament, and Aurelia Bubijutti, ex-Member of Italian Parliament.
Shastri drew the attention of the Italian audience towards the reckless manner in which the Union Carbide Corporation had set up a second hand, outdated and obsolete pesticide factory in Bhopal after it had already established a far more advanced plant with fully automatic safety system at Institute in West Virginia in the US.
Shastri underscored the point that the Multinational company saw a great opportunity to exploit the situation in the mid-70s of last century when India was entering the second phase of the Green Revolution and expanding the programme across the country. Under this programme, farmers were being advised to go for extensive use of hybrid seeds that require large-scale use of fertilisers and pesticides, to increase prduction. UCC had secured a license in 1975 from Government of India to produce Sevin Carbaryl by setting up a plant in Bhopal. This was when a similar request had been turned down by Canada on safety grounds. On the midnight of December 2 and 3, 1984, there was total breakdown of the safety system in the Carbide plant in Bhopal and tonnes of deadly Methyl isocyanate (MIC) leaked into the air killing thousands of citizens and critically wounding hundreds of thousands.
Shastri threw light on the issue of remediation of soil contaminated by toxic waste and the curative petition for enhancement of compensation. He also drew special attention towards the woes of the citizens who have suffered irreversible lung damage and the toxic waste still lying in the Carbide factory premises in Bhopal. He said that the world community should exert pressure on Dow Chemical Company, the present owner of Union Carbide, to clean up the toxic waste in Bhopal.
Shastri pointed out that the world now faces the challenge of feeding 8 billion people, while grappling with issues like climate, ecosystems and sustainability. We went through the Bhopal disaster at a time when India was trying to increase agriculture production, he said emphasising there should not be a repeat of Bhopal.
Earlier on 23 November, Shastri had addressed Italian parliamentarians on the same subject in the Press Room of the Chamber of Deputies (Italian Parliament) in Rome.