My first knowledge of the industrial disaster that struck Bhopal that fatefulDecember night in the year 1984 was from the morning papers (The Hindu) of December 4th or 5th plastered with stark black and white pictures of dead bodies lying on the ground, covered in cloth. I had just entered ‘college’ to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, and was getting past the self-centered-study-stage of the +2 (final 2) years of schooling. This was a horrendous sight that filled our hearts (my younger sister’s and mine) with grief, sympathy, outrage and much more.
The next few weeks were filled with updates as available in the newspaper, and the periodicals. They were also taken up by the pressing needs of study, assignments and exams. Bhopal’s Union Carbide Industrial Disaster became occasionally-remembered-during-the-year, and definitely-revisited-on-its-anniversary.
Over the ensuing years, to me, it became just another tragedy and corporate indifference. Starting year 2010, and following the BP Gulf oil spill, Bhopal’s Union Carbide Industrial Disaster has been gaining a stronghold in my mind. It is heartening to see more awareness exhibited by corporations. But, it is also scary to see the multi-fold increase in corporate ruthlessness (supported by administrative callousness) as the stakes are much higher.
The market is now an open global market. Developed countries bask in seeing their own relatively stable platforms. Not-yet-developed countries are trying to hang on to their boats in a stormy ocean of economic, political and social upheavals. And, the ocean is not free of sharks – local, international, corporate, political and others of vested interests. When there is a fast-buck to be made, sharks are ready to attack.
The expectations I have for ethical behaviour by corporate players is not heartening, as evidenced by statements by potential players who promise a solution for the looming energy and natural resources crisis, mainly because business ethics are dictated by profitability. The hope is for the truly socially responsible players to prevail and sideline the “(monetary)-profit-is-the-bottom-line” players.
May there never ever be another tragedy like the one that the city and people of Bhopal faced, under the siege of the Industrial Disaster caused by Union Carbide. May corporations be less greedy and more responsible. May industries be more true to the solutions they provide. May Bhopal ever be the reminder for what should never be.