An Indian court Monday convicted seven former senior employees of Union Carbide’s Indian subsidiary of “death by negligence” for their roles in the Bhopal gas tragedy that left an estimated 15,000 people dead more than a quarter century ago in the world’s worst industrial disaster.
Yes, finally, 25 years after the fact, someone was held accountable for 15,000 people dead because ignoring safety rules was more profitable than following them.
Did I say people were held accountable? Well, actually, not so much.
The former employees, many of them in their 70s, were sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay fines of 100,000 rupees ($2,175) apiece. All seven were released on bail shortly after the verdict.
The subsidiary, Union Carbide India Ltd., no longer exists but was convicted of the same charge and ordered to pay a fine of rupees 500,000 ($10,870).
Wow, what a “harsh” punishment for the murder of 15,000 people, that almost $1.74 per person murdered. And yes, I DO call it murder. When you willfully ignore safety rules when handling cyanide, you do so knowing that people will die if an “accident” occurs.
Of course, Union Carbide never admitted safety was the issue.
Union Carbide Corp., an American chemical company, said the accident was an act of sabotage by a disgruntled employee who was never identified. It has denied the disaster was the result of lax safety standards or faulty plant design, as claimed by some activists.
Ah yes,, of course, most saboteurs commit acts likely to get themselves and their families killed to make a point about a disagreement about their time card.
And that “15,000 dead” number is the “official estimate”, and like all “official” numbers, you need to add 50%-100% to get the real number (for example, unemployment in the U.S. is Ractually between 11.3%-and 17.1%, as opposed to the “official 9.9%).
This is yet another reason why treating corporations as “persons” is a bad, bad idea. If you or I had did something that killed 15,000+ people, you can be damned sure that it wouldn’t take the temporal authorities 25 years to bring us to justice, and the penalty certainly wouldn’t be 2 years in jail and a $26,000 fine. The Exxon Valdez spill was 21 years ago, and Exxon still hasn’t paid the bill for that disaster.
Also, it is worth noting that the only people who were convicted were Indian. The American plant manager fled the country back in 1985 and the U.S. refused to extradite him for trial. Hey, he’s an American, and an executive of a major American chemical company, and we don’t allow our corporate executives to stand trial for something as trivial as killing 15,000+ people.