“Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice” Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Justice delayed, but denied? For the time being, yes that is true. And the fight goes on. Civil society groups are in a constant tussle and have dug their heels in resistance against Dow Chemicals’ attempts to evade liability for the Bhopal Gas Disaster. The furor is especially tangible in the premiere institutes—the Indian Institutes of Technology, caused by Dow’s investments in their list of companies invited for campus placements. Although there is a strong resistance in the student body against Dow, there are also few doubters. This is what a final year student from IIT Madras has to say -“We can’t afford to take the moral high ground with placements round the corner and everyone queuing up for the best jobs.” But, on the whole, the mobilization and zeal in the youth (here I am not referring to the IITs alone) is heartening.
Twenty three years of struggle by the people, directly affected and associated with the movement for justice in its true spirit for the people of Bhopal, have crawled by but the fight continues. Being a part of ‘Students for Bhopal’ campaign myself, having visited Bhopal on the Annual Exposure Trip from college, meeting and interacting with those families affected by the gas leakage; I feel that stirring up the dormant lion among the youth on a humongous scale is required to hasten the crawling pace that the government and Dow Chemicals have conveniently assumed. Facing Dow eye to eye and giving it the thumbs down in every possible way ‘we’ as the youth of
India can, will be a step towards the larger goal. I agree that it is not a cake walk but merely knowing the atrocities committed by Dow will raise anybody and everybody’s cry for justice. It is not merely about compensation but also about removal of the toxic wastes which are lying in the Union Carbide Factory for the past 23 years; purification of the severely contaminated water with high levels of carcinogenic and mutagenic toxins around the area which affects thousands of poor people living in the neighborhood and provision of long term medical care for victims of the gas leak. In addition to this, it has to face criminal trial in the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Dow has constantly denied responsibility for the cleanup but its hypocrisy is evident in light of the fact that it has set aside $2.2 billion to address asbestos related liabilities caused by the Carbide Operations in the
United States before the takeover in 2001. When it can assume responsibility in the US, then why not in
India? Moreover, the proposal of investment by Dow Chemicals in
Maharashtra for setting up a chemical hub is being taken positively by the government (with the probable exception of Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals) and private stake holders (TATAs). If the people’s representatives themselves abet Dow in evading its responsibility, then the entire onus automatically falls on the shoulders of the civil society groups, which have luckily been successful in deterring Dow in influencing public opinion. Following up the argument laid out, it is imperative that we, as the youth, arm ourselves with the zeal exclusively associated with us and support the movement carried tirelessly for more than two decades by hundreds of people—people just like you and me; to achieve the full stop, the final one. Himadri Agarwal