In December of 1984, an accidental gas leak at the Union Carbide facility in Bhopal India caused a large number of deaths and an even larger number of injuries. (Reports on the exact number of deaths range from 3,800 to 8,000 people.) This accident not only affected the people and the physical environment at the time of the incident, but it is still having a negative effect on the area today. This past event now involves the Dow family of companies due to their merger with Union Carbide in February of 2001. When this merger took place, it caused Dow Chemicals to inherit not only Union Carbides assets, but its liabilities as well.
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From a corporate point of view this accident should be considered a liability, and could be considered a public relations nightmare. Although all legal actions and obligations have been fulfilled, the fact that this incident has ongoing negative impact places Dow Chemical in an unenviable position. Currently, assessments of the feasibility of an area environmental clean up are being considered, but this step will likely be viewed as too little to late. The people directly affected by the gas leak are also seeking additional reparations, but the amount in which Dow should be held responsible is in question. This incident has taken any positive effects of the globalization of these companies and reduced them to a pool of negatives. Any member of the effected society must view this situation as the “wealthy American Corporation” taking advantage of the economically challenged city of Bhopal India and its citizens. This feeling is undoubtedly furthered by the fact that nearly all of the individuals in executive positions directly involved with this incident are no longer working for Union Carbide or Dow Chemicals. Again, the rich corporate executives have quit their jobs and have dissolved into anonymity, wealth intact, and accountability withstanding.
Recently, protests by survivors of the “gas” incident have resulted in legal action being taken by Dow Chemicals. The lawsuit facing the protestors (a group of female survivors) is based on the claim of “loss of work due to disruption” of Dow employees and is currently ongoing. This lawsuit is facing a greater legal adversary however in the form of multiple charges filed against Dow and its subsidiary Union Carbide. These charges have been filed over the past five years and include violations of international human rights laws, environmental laws, and international criminal laws, as well as charges directly against Warren Anderson by the Indian courts.
The people affected by this accident have not been compensated in a way that could be considered fair. Although the courts acted on the publics behalf during the trial in 1989, the actual individual compensation for this accident amounts to only $300 to $500 per victim. Is this adequate compensation for the destruction of life, a society, and the environment? Most people in the same situation, given the same set of circumstances would agree that this is not fair. This incident could be considered a good example of globalization within the corporate world gone wrong. When the lives, and society of a set of people become less important than the institution or corporation they are working for, then the system of corporate globalization has gone too far.
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