ndsharma's blog

Why the use of poison by Union Carbide?

Posted on: November 29, 2012

On December 3 falls the 28th anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster. The survivors and their sympathisers will observe the ritual, as they always have, of holding prayer meetings, taking out processions, shouting slogans against the authorities and burning the effigies of former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson.

The ritual over, these hapless survivors will return to their desultory life, hoping for some miracle that would make their living a little less miserable.  All they need is medicine, uncontaminated drinking water and some means of sustaining their life. They have spent all these years in the hope of this miracle. The governments at the Centre and in the State have made every effort to deny them these basic necessities —- the Central government which had, by an Act of Parliament, taken upon the role of the guardian of the families affected by the MiC gas leak from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant, and the State government which has the responsibility of implementing the projects aimed at providing succour to the survivors.

An important issue ignored by the authorities so far is why Union Carbide was using poison in its pesticide plant in Bhopal.

The presence of cyanide and phosgene in the blood of the victims and in the residue of the storage tank immediately after the disaster on December 2-3,1984 had puzzled the scientists because these two chemicals are not required to manufacture pesticides. While high concentration of hydrogen cyanide was found in air samples close to the tank two to three days after the leakage, phosgene was also smelt close to the tank during the release.

The vapour of hydrogen cyanide “may be followed by almost instantaneous collapse and cessation of respiration”. Cyanide can also accumulate in the body. Then the common symptoms are headache, dizziness, nausea and weakness. Less common are rash, increased sweating, dyspnoea, weight loss and irritability, besides, many other “unspecified symptoms”.

Phosgene was “effectively used as a combat gas during the First World War”. It is a severe irritant to the entire respiratory tract.

The Indian authorities did not even seek an explanation from the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) about the presence of these two chemicals, as these were not required for making pesticides.

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Value of propaganda

Adolf Hitler believed in the use of propaganda as an integral element to seizing and holding on to political power. His maxim was 'the bigger the lie, the more easily it will be believed, provided it is repeated vigorously and often enough'. (Sean Murphy in his book 'Letting the Side Down')

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