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Bhopal gas verdict travesty of justice: environmental experts

New Delhi, June 7 (Calcutta Tube) ‘Too little too late’ and a ‘travesty/mockery of justice’ is how environmentalists described the verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy case announced Monday. The gas leak from the Union Carbide plant in 1984 had left 25,000 people dead.

A court in Bhopal Monday held eight accused guilty of criminal negligence in the world’s worst industrial disaster and sentenced them to two years imprisonment.

‘It is too little too late and people responsible for the death of over 25,000 people are getting away scot-free with just two years of punishment and a fine of Rs.500,000 on the company. This is nothing but travesty of justice,’ Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) associate director Chandra Bhushan told IANS.

The CSE, in a study done last December, had found that for more than 25 years, the Union Carbide (UCIL) factory has been contaminating the land and water of Bhopal.

The study found that groundwater and soil in areas even three km away from the factory contains almost 40 times more pesticides than Indian standards. The soil and water also contain toxic metals like lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and chromium.

‘The accident has caused huge amount of contamination of water and land in the city and had serious impacts on health of people. Even after 25 years people are suffering from serious health impacts including damage to the brain and nervous system, chromosomal abnormalities, damaging liver and blood cells, Chandra Bhushan said.

The court also imposed a fine of Rs.100,000 on the eight, including Keshub Mahindra, who then headed the UCIL from whose pesticide plant tonnes of lethal gas leaked on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984, killing thousands instantly and many more later.

‘This has been reduced to a street crime. It is a complete failure of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which seems to be working under some corporate pressure. It is a ridiculous order and a mockery of the judicial process,’ said Gopal Krishna of ToxicsWatch Alliance.

Tonnes of methyl-iso-cyanate (MIC) spewed out of the now shut pesticide plant that was located in a congested part of the city.

A study by the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) in Bhopal has found that the toxic gas altered the immune system of those who were still in their mothers’ wombs when the disaster struck.

‘Our study shows, for the first time, that in-utero MIC exposure during the Bhopal gas tragedy has caused a persistent immune system hyper-responsiveness in affected individuals,’ said Pradyumna Kumar Mishra, who led the study.

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