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My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Thursday, December 2

Bhopal

Several years ago, I worked doing computer support and network administration for a company called Praxair. One day, during a discussion, I think about the dangerousness of some of the gasses/chemicals in the plant, a co-worker mentioned a particular gas that had some very gruesome and fast acting effects. He mentioned that it was what killed the people in Bhopal. He was surprised that I hadn't heard of the incident and told me a bit more about it.

Originally, the company had been part of a very large international corporation called Union Carbide. Thousands of people in Bhopal, India died when a poisonous gas leaked out into the nearby area. He said the gas wouldn't have killed so many people if it weren't for the fact that people had moved very nearby to take advantage of the company's fence posts to stabilize their homes. It wasn't actually legal for them to do so, but the company ... whether out of pity or indifference... allowed it.

He said after the incident, that the company had made a deal with India's government paying millions of dollars in exchange for ending the corporation's liability for the incident. Apparently, the amount of money wasn't enough to help all the victims and clean up the area completely, so many people think it was a corrupt deal. The CEO of the company was in permanent hiding and the company had broken up into smaller parts and reorganized. Praxair was a large portion of the original company.

At the time, I looked into the incident a bit online. I couldn't immediately verify some of the information - like the bit about the people taking advantage of company property to make their homes or about the breakup of Union Carbide. (I wondered if Praxair was actually still a part of it).

Anyways, apparently Dec. 3rd is the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal incident. I was browsing around about it and found a few other interesting bits of information. Union Carbide is claiming that there was deliberate sabotage. The company who owned the plant was actually owned partly by Union Carbide (slightly more than 50% of the shares) and the rest by the Indian government and other Indian shareholders. In the comments section of the BBC pages, a person complained about Indian people moving to the site deliberately in order to be able to make a claim. Another person mentioned that it was actually illegal for the people to live where they were (at the time of the gas release), but the Indian government didn't enforce it.

There's no particular point to this except maybe that it seems hard to find anything in the news parts that seriously supports the idea that the people put themselves at risk in the first place and that Union Carbide might not be directly responsible (that it was sabotage).

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