Bhopal disaster consequences

In 1994, the Supreme Court of India allowed Union Carbide Corporation to sell its 50.9 percent share in Union Carbide India Limited. The Supreme Court directed the company to finance a 500-bed hospital for the medical care of the survivors. The Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre was inaugurated in 1998 and it was obliged to give free care for survivors for eight years.

Indian Government controlled banks and the Indian public held the other 49.1 percent ownership share. Union Carbide eventually sold the subsidiary to Eveready Industries India Limited in 1994. The Bhopal plant was later sold to McLeod Russel Ltd. Finally, Dow Chemical Company purchased Union Carbide Corporation in 2001.

In June 2010, seven ex-employees including the former Union Carbide India Limited chairman, were convicted in Bhopal of causing death by negligence and sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of about $2,000 each, the maximum punishment allowed by law. An eighth former employee was also convicted, but died before judgment was passed.

Complaints of a lack of information or misinformation were widespread at the time. The Bhopal plant medical doctor did not have proper information about the properties of the gases. The corporation was more interested in getting information than in helping the relief work.

Bhopal tragedy death toll
Medical staff was completely unprepared for the thousands of casualties. Doctors and hospitals were not informed of proper treatment methods for methyl isocyanate gas inhalation. They were told to simply give cough medicine and eye drops to their patients. Formal statements were issued that air, water, vegetation and foodstuffs were safe within the city. At the same time, people were informed that poultry was unaffected, but were warned not to consume fish. The gases immediately caused visible damage to the trees. Within a few days, all the leaves fell off. In the same time period about 2,000 bloated animal carcasses had to be disposed of.

Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. Others estimate 3,000 died within weeks and another 8,000 have since died from gas-related diseases. A government affidavit in 2006 stated the leak caused 558,125 injuries including 38,478 temporary partial and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries.

Relief measures commenced in 1985 when food was distributed for a short period and ration cards were distributed. Widow pension of the rate of Rs 200/per month (later Rs 750) was provided. One-time ex-gratia payment of Rs 1,500 to families with low income was decided. Each victim of the Bhopal crisis was categorized by a doctor.

The final compensation for personal injury was around Rs 25,000 (US$ 830). For death claim, the average sum paid out was Rs 62,000 (US$ 2,058). Union Carbide Corporation offered US $350 million in compensation, the exact amount of the insurance sum. The Government of India claimed US$ 3.3 billion from Union Carbide Corporation. In 1989, a settlement was reached under which the company agreed to pay US$470 million in a full and final settlement of its civil and criminal liability. The Bhopal Disaster was the result of a desire to maximize profit overseas at the expense of the local population. The Bhopal crisis will always remain a reminder how costly industrialization can be.

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