Social Scientist. v 13, no. 140 (Jan 1985) p. 32.

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Bhopal Gas Tragedy

THE disaster in Bhopal has been universally recognised as the worst ever industrial accident. Thousands of human beings, mostly poor, have lost their lives. Countless others continue to be seriously affected. Vast numbers have been permanently disabled. The long-term effects and possible genetic damage have yet to be estimated.

The tragedy has brought to the fore several issues : those on which immediate action is needed by the government to cope up with the situation created by the disaster in Bhopal and those aspects which arc general in nature and would have to be addressed by revamping existing executive measures and legislation to prevent and manage the disasters like the one which occured in Bhopal. The tragedy also highlights the need for strengthening of institutions concerned with research, monitoring and control of delayed effects and second order impacts, monitoring and regulation of environmental pollution and occupational/industrial health hazards. All these issues require concerted action

A DSF team visited Bhopal from 9th to llth December, 1984. It met several disaster victims in the worst affected areas like Jaiprakash Nagar, Chhola and Kenchi Chhola. The team also met several operators and engineers of the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), Bhopal Plant and many local doctors and scientists all of whom provided much valuable information and insights. Other DSF members collected background material, held discussions with a variety of experts and helped in drafting and editing the report.

Criminal Negligence

Without prejudice to the on-going enquiry, the DSF has discovered sufficient evidence to show that there has been gross negligence both on the part of the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), who own 50 99% shares in UCIL and UCIL management, in those critical areas which related to design processing and handling of the hazardous MIC, phosgene and other toxic substances. Plant's maintenance was astonishingly deficient. Worse, many crucial safety functions were inoperative, some for "economy" reasons. Such "economy measures" were also responsible for a manning

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