"7th June 2010, Indian court convicted seven former senior employees of Union Carbide's Indian subsidiary of "death by negligence" for their roles in the 1984 Bhopal tragedy"
It’s been 25 years of Bhopal’s unimaginable human rights tragedy; it is only fitting to remind ourselves of the words dedicated by American survivor of the Twin Towers Lawrence Swan to Bhopal some five years ago:
“And though we cover our faces with flags
and other pieces of cloth to filter the air,
the spirits of the dead aren’t fooled
by our masks.”
The real tragedy of Bhopal lies in these cruel words. In the reality that even after half a decade, questions as to who was responsible still haunt the maimed and handicapped “Carbide Children” born in the soil of the now poisoned land.
WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE AND WHAT CAUSED THIS TRAGEDY?
From a purely moral perspective, it is perhaps easy to lay blame squarely on the shoulders of the big, bad, rich American multinational called Union Carbide Corporation (UCC). After all, UCC was the only stakeholder involved in the whole disaster from the beginning till the end, from its design till its fateful destruction on 3rd December 1984. They were the ones with resources (money, knowledge and the technology) to ensure to the fullest extent possible that no such accident ever happened. But what makes UCC even more culpable than the local counterpart Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) or even the Indian Government (who turned a blind eye to the UCC transgressions given their own weak political infrastructure) from a moral, legal and academic perspective is the fact that rather than facing the Indian citizenry, especially the survivors of Bhopal and doing everything in their power to minimize the destruction caused to life, livelihoods and to future generations, UCC did what had become their modus operandi even in the United States when such disasters happened: they immediately cried wolf and blamed someone else. And in this case, according to Jackson B. Browning, the Vice President of Health, Safety, and Environmental Programs in UCC, Death Smog Day was a result of the “a disgruntled plant employee, apparently bent on spoiling a batch of methyl isocyanate (MIC), added water to a storage tank.” To date, UCC has failed to provide any evidence of the actual existence of this so-called employee.
Ironically, studies by Dr. Paul Shrivastava, an Associate Professor of Business in New York University, have shown that 28 major MIC leaks had occurred in an American plant of UCC during the five years preceding the Bhopal incident. The only reason Bhopal (and not other such incidents of neglect by UCC) came to global attention (unfortunately for UCC) was because of the scale of the catastrophe. Estimates of the number of people killed in the first few days by the plume from the UCC plant run as high as 10,000, with 15,000 to 20,000 premature deaths reportedly occurring in the subsequent years. 
Taking full advantage of an economically and technologically weaker country, and of a government desperate to create jobs for its people and boost its agricultural production, UCC conveniently ignored following the same health, safety and even emergency response protocols that it did in all its other US-based factories. No doubt issues such as staffing and maintenance were the responsibility of the Indian counterpart UCIL. But if due to falling profits, UCIL laid off staff including safety assurance teams; the MIC tank refrigeration unit was disabled; flare towers remained in-operational pending repairs; and slip-bind plates were never installed to save costs--- doesn’t the real fault lie with the parent company which continued to have control over financial decisions like the annual budget  ?
UCC did what every large, multinational corporation does: it ran an aggressive media/PR campaign for its customers, shareholders, suppliers and other employees in its own parent country (USA) to ensure that its reputation and more importantly its investments remained intact (Union Carbide remains today a profitable multi billion dollar company owned by the Dow Chemical Company).
Not just this. In order to counter the legal suit filed by the Indian Government against the corporation worth 3 billion USD, UCC filed a countersuit against an already reeling Indian nation and the people of Bhopal claiming that UCC was in no way accountable for the workings of its subsidiaries---a claim which is laughable given that by both Indian and US laws, a parent company (UCC in this case) holds full responsibility for any plants they operate through subsidiaries and in which they have the majority stake.
UCC and its Indian subsidiary have paid a mere $465 million in damages. The victims were given about $2,000. Those who escaped with injuries were given $500. Most of whom live below the poverty line without any source of income. Many suffer from chronic, debilitating diseases. How far will the $500 go to meet their living expenses and medication? Compensation means more than just an aid package especially when that very same company continues to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear (physical conditions which many of the Bhopalians now suffer) to relentless calls by environmental groups and organizations to do more to clean up the area in and around the old factory.
PREVENTION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
“Profit-At-All-Costs” is the mantra of all business enterprises. It is this mantra that needs to be drastically overhauled. And it is the responsibility of consumers to hold companies responsible for their negligence. Corporate Social Responsibility is not just about companies cleaning up their acts, it is also about citizens taking more responsibility for the products they buy and the enterprises they support. The tragedy of Bhopal lies in the fact that despite the great loss of life and the utterly inhumane attitude of the parent and subsidiary company, shareholders and consumers of UCC remained on the side lines. American media continued to sing the songs the company press releases wanted it to sing, regardless of the hundreds of children who died and still continue to suffer. The American stockholder continued to have faith in the company’s solid ventures. The question is: Would the American public and even the media have reacted the same way if Bhopal had happened in Danbury, Connecticut (UCC HQ)?
They say prevention is better than cure. Preventing Bhopal (even if the direct cause was sabotage as claimed by UC) would have been far easier than mitigating its effects. According to Eckerman (2005), the Bhopal leak could have been prevented by the 4 Es based on the Haddon Matrix: “Engineering includes design of the plant and maintenance. Environmental modifications is the localization of the plant. Education of inhabitants, workers and operators, UCIL management as well as the authorities is important. Enforcement includes demands on transnational companies, environmental laws as well as work life laws. 
The leakage caught the people, even the medical experts and hospitals, of the surrounding area completely by surprise. It is imperative that not only should such hazardous factories be built outside urban areas, but that in cases where such factories do exist, residents be made fully aware of emergency responses/disaster preparedness in case of an accident. Early warning systems such as sirens should also be fully operational within such facilities. Apart from adequate economic and environmental rehabilitation, local governments and factory owners should ensure that immediate and proper medical attention is provided to those affected. In response to this, the Chemical Manufacturing Association created the ‘Responsible Care Program’ that is now being implemented worldwide in at least 22 countries. The Program’s aim is to improve community awareness, emergency response and employee health and safety.
Union Carbide slogans proudly proclaim that “Safety is everyone’s priority” and yet UCC failed to place and implement the kind of safety, health and environmental (SHE) protocols which it did in its other USA-based facilities. Double standards like these needs to be checked by host countries which should develop strict SHE regulations and no compromises should be done with safety audits. In case of non compliance, heavy fines and penalties, factory closures should be the letter of the law. Corporations need to have their own internal safety plans apart from having international certifications like ISO-9000, ISO-14000 and SA-8000. All tiers of factory management should be well versed with comprehensive safety plans. Information and precaution about hazardous material needs to be shared frequently. The security devices and their maintenance should be given higher priority and if necessary special staff or department should be set up. Hazardous Substance Process Management (HSPM) should be implemented given the nature of the industry being set up.
In operations where technology transfer takes place, especially about chemical or hazardous material, parent companies should be extra vigilant in ensuring that a formal hands-on expert or program is available. In case of Bhopal, there was no foreign expert available on the spot and it is presumed that safety procedures were not communicated properly. It also gave a reason to UCC to put all the safety issue blame on the Indian side.
Subsidiary companies, as well as their workers, need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities. Parent companies should nurture relationships of trust and mutual respect through joint decision making and consultation. Workers should be offered competitive insurance plans equivalent to their counterparts in the developed countries. The subsidiary companies should be aware of the Global Sullivan Principles (GSP), ILO Tripartite Declaration, and UN Global Compact.
India is not the first state to have fallen prey to a neoliberal capitalist pirate like UCC. Corporations were held accountable for Shell’s actions in Nigeria, Nike’s actions in Pakistan and Unocal’s Burma oil to name a few. Third-world host countries starved for capital, struggling with poverty have no choice but to open their doors to multinational companies. The monthly profits of many of these corporations are far greater than the annual budgets of many of the states in which they function. Given the amount of power and money, corporations have and the poverty and sheer desperation of weak, mismanaged governments, it is very important to have an international tribunal and court of law that can hold these companies accountable for their actions.There should be a global MNC magnacarta to protect the most vulnerable in the host countries in which they operate.
Aneel Salman, an academic, based in New York, USA. The author would like to thank Sarah Siddiq and Atif Majeed for their inputs and comments
 Broughton, Edward, “The Bhopal Disaster and Its Aftermath: A Review,” Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source 4:6, 2005.
 Bogard, William, “The Bhopal Tragedy: Language, Logic and Politics in the Production of a Hazard,” San Francisco Westview Press Inc. 1989.
 Eckerman, Ingrid, “The Bhopal gas leak: Analyses of causes and consequences by three different models,” Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, Volume 18, Issues 4-6, July-November 2005, pp.213-217. Selected Papers Presented at the International Conference on Bhopal Gas Tragedy and its Effects on Process Safety.