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Wednesday, December 20, 2000

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Bhopal victims

Sir, - Kudos to The Hindu for publishing a timely and detailed report under the caption ``Last chance to render justice to Bhopal victims'' by Messrs C. Raj Kumar and Pratibha Jain, New York attorneys (Dec. 13). The report fully exposes the violation of the human rights by the Union Carbide of USA (UCC) and the unhelpful attitude of the Government of India.

The Bhopal gas tragedy did not simply happen on December 2/3, 1984; the unsafe conditions at the facility in Bhopal had been allowed in the previous years to cause the disaster. A few examples of the earlier instances, available with this writer, are given below:

1. Phosgene gas leak on Dec. 26, 1981 caused severe environmental pollution and killed a maintenance fitter.

2. There was a toxic gas release during the first week of February, 1982, injuring 16 workers and causing panic among the inhabitants of Bhopal.

3. On December 5, 1982, there was a massive explosion in the Methyl Iso Cyanate (MIC) unit and the people in the locality ran for their lives.

4. A special inspection team of experts from UCC, which visited the MIC complex in Bhopal in May 1982, reported serious violations of safety norms and the risky conditions like (i) the extent of corrosion and possibility of escape of toxic gases; (ii) many vital instruments were not working; (iii) filling of MIC tanks was done manually and there was no scientific instrument to back up in case of error.

5. Nothing was done to correct the deteriorating unsafe conditions.

6. The refrigeration system which cooled the killer gas MIC was out of service in June 1984; the refrigerant was removed!

7. A safety survey conducted during the second week of July 1984 had warned that a runaway reaction could occur in one of the MIC unit storage tanks and that response to such a situation would not be timely or effective enough to prevent catastrophic failure of the tank.

8. But the company continued the gross violations of basic safety requirements. The flare tower could not be used during the disaster because a length of piping was corroded and had not been replaced!

K. Kuttykrishnan,

Kochi (Kerala)

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