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5 things to know about 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy

In the intervening night of December 2nd and 3rd, 1984, while the city of Bhopal slept, an accident at the Union Carbide factory released copious amounts of a deadly toxin methyl isocynate (MIC) into the air that was borne downstream, leaving over 3,700 persons dead in its wake, most of them dying in their sleep.

Others managed to escape the deadline fumes, but suffered life-long medical problems. Thousands more died in the weeks that followed, while tens of thousands suffered disabilities from the poison.

1) Union Carbide India Ltd at the time was an Indian firm but controlled by its US parent Union Carbide Corp., which finally ended up in the hands of Dow Chemicals.

2) Warren Anderson was the then chairman of Union Carbide Corp. came to India days after the accident and was charged and arrested on grounds of manslaughter but quickly left on bail of Rs 25,000 after it became apparent that it was going to be a long legal battle with little chance of winning. He was reportedly flown out of India on a private plane arranged by Congress leader Arjun Singh, then the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. He never returned to India. The Indian government tried on multiple times to get him extradited to India but to no avail.

3) In 1989, Union Carbide agreed to pay a $ 497 million in damages – an amount that was dismissed immediately by activists as being beggarly given the magnitude of the tragedy.

4) He was declared a fugitive from justice by the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal in 1992, for failing to appear at a court hearing. The US and Indian governments both insisted that Anderson was missing and could not be found.However, in September 2002, activists working on behalf of victims and survivors of Bhopal located Anderson living with his wife Lillian in a $ 900,000 house in the tony Hamptons in New York.

5) An Indian court finally passed an order for Anderson’s extradition in 2003, a good 19 years after the Bhopal gas tragedy. In 2009, the chief judicial magistrate of Bhopal issued an arrest warrant for Anderson. The United States, however, has consistently declined to extradite him since the first request was made in 2003, citing lack of evidence.  The Indian government also never actively pursued Anderson’s extradition, mindful of the adverse publicity it would get India as an investment destination.


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