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  • Raajveer Singh Bisht

Written in Blood

A cautionary adage goes “Your regulations are written in blood”. It is true, many of the common place regulations, advisories, protocols we take for granted are there because their absence led to deaths. The existence of a fire extinguisher within an office, a fire escape in sprawling malls, lighting strips on the carpets of aeroplanes. They are here today because people lost their lives and to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again precautions were taken and made mandatory.


As I write this, news pours in of the people who have lost their lives to the Vizag leak and the thousands who are suffering as hospitals fill up and local authorities take drastic measures.


This isn’t the first time we’ve seen such a tragedy occur, even those among us, born twenty years after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy know of the pain that it inflicted on people, the deep scars it left on the area and how even to this very day people are facing the consequences of that one event.


News channels are still focused on statistics and numbers and investigations into the leak will take time but this is where we need to take cognizance of two key facts, something went wrong and someone has to be held accountable.


Something went wrong:


Whether negligence or regulatory flouting happened at the plant is something that we will discover later but as the nation mourns this terrible event in the midst of already hard times it remains important that the civil society of India not be paralyzed.


It is imperative that we take the authorities to task and ensure that after the investigations have concluded that strong measures be enacted to ensure that what happened here doesn’t devolve into a pattern. That the weakness in our current industrial setup be taken into account and solutions for it be devised. Apathy cannot be allowed to creep within our system.


Someone has to be held accountable:


The Bhopal Tragedy has to be taken into account, for twenty years after the event victims and their families were still left grappling against the legal shield that the Union Carbide Corporation had.


Till 2012 there were lawsuits that were being argued in US courts even as the chemicals left behind by the UCC, which they decided not to clean up, leaked into the groundwater and did further environmental damage, extending the poisoning from this one event to several generations of people.


The UCC paid a fine, had an out of court agreement and remained relatively scot-free as the then CEO retired soon and lived a full life. The victims were left in the dark, fighting against a financially stronger opponent in a foreign court with alien proceedings and without the support of their own government. Till date victims and their families have clamoured for damages to be paid towards them and towards the city for the irreversible damage done towards the environment.


The LG corporation that is the parent corporation behind LG Polymers is an MNC with similar characteristics to the UCC. Therefore, it would be disheartening to see the legal proceedings in this event go on a similar route to the Bhopal one with victims demanding justice decades later. To ensure justice is the responsibility of our government and judicial system and it is our responsibility to encourage them to do so.


Hope:


The chemical which has leaked in the Vizag case is thankfully not one which persists in the environment like in the Bhopal Case and with a swift response the toxic effects will be neutralised.


The National Human Rights Commission has taken cognizance of the matter and even issued a notice regarding the leak. So far, the LG corporation has been cooperative and according to some news reports it was their own supervisors who raised the alarm regarding the leak. The Prime Minister has invoked the NDMA and the government response overall so far seems to be more active compared to the Bhopal case.


Therefore, if we stay alert and mindful of what happened in the Bhopal case and ensure that our government, courts, commissions and organisations maintain an active role in the investigations, repair and rehabilitation that has to follow in the wake of this event we will perhaps be able to avoid an ongoing, multi-generational tragedy that the Bhopal Disaster became.

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