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  • Andrew Rupp

Burial of Bhopal - Corporate Pillage in India

It is difficult to know what, or even how, to feel upon learning the horrors afflicted upon our fellow humans. Humans who are no different than us rather than by mere birthplace. These injustices are contemplated when wrestling with the essential questions, such as “Who am I?” and “What does it all mean?”. The high degree of nuance gives no reliable answer, yet, grievously, there are many who have experienced perdition, prompting the rest of us to wonder:

Why do bad things happen to good people?

In early December, 1984, at least 500,000 people, a quarter of the city’s population, were engulfed by poisonous gas clouds in Bhopal, India. As many as 8,000 died immediately[1], with an estimated 25,000 deaths[2] (in total) from the lingering effects of exposure. American corporation Union Carbide, now Dow Chemical Company, allowed for the “gradual erosion of good and regular maintenance operations, depletion of adequately trained professionals, especially in supervisory posts, declining inventories of vital spare parts, staff exodus and demoralization, (and) under-manning of important workstations in the plant[3]”.

This criminal negligence led to what has been called as the worst industrial disaster ever, as harmful effects continue to this day. Long-term consequences from methyl isocyanate (MIC) exposure include:

- “[…] chronic conjunctivitis, scars on the cornea, deficiency of tear secretion or eye, watering, persistent corneal opacities and the early onset of cataracts

- abnormal lung function with obstructive and/or restrictive disease, aggravation of old diseases like tuberculosis and chronic bronchitis, and pulmonary fibrosis

- impairment of memory, attention response speed and vigilance as well as finer motor skills, […] also neuromuscular symptoms such as tingling, numbness and muscular aches

- post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), pathological grief

- emotional reactions to physical problems and exacerbation of pre-existing psychiatric problems

- menstrual irregularities, […] profuse menstruations and premature menopause

- […] the still-birth rate, the crude birth rate, the perinatal death rate, the neonatal death rate

- and the infant mortality rate were all high in severely affected areas, compared to rates in less affected or control areas[4].”

What of the survivors? Those who lost loved ones, those enduring continual illness from MIC inhalation, those confronting the corporate rape of their city? They received empty promises of recompense. That is… nothing at all. Bundled with trials and scrutinized by corporate lawyers, what little compensation (as though restitution were possible) they received was witnessing corporate “measure(s) to minimize costs in compensations rather than a concern over the people affected[5]”.

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[1] Duhon, H. (2014). Bhopal: A Root Cause Analysis of the Deadliest Industrial Accident in History. [online] JPT. Available at: [Accessed 11 Jul. 2021]. [2] Osborne, H. (2014). Bhopal disaster 30th anniversary: Facts about the world\'s worst industrial tragedy. [online] International Business Times UK. Available at: [Accessed 11 Jul. 2021]. [3] Nair, M. (2005). Bhopal Gas Tragedy – A Social, Economic, Legal and Environmental Analysis. SSRN Electronic Journal. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Jul. 2021]. [4] Eckerman, I. (2005). The Bhopal saga : causes and consequences of the world’s largest industrial disaster. [online] Hyderabad, India: Universities Press. Available at: [Accessed 11 Jul. 2021]. [5] Matilal, S. and Adhikari, P., 2013, July. Tragedy in Bhopal: Antenarrative accounting. In The 7th Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference, Kobe, Japan (pp. 26-28).

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