Ever since the United States offered India the nuclear cooperation deal in July 2005, and India lapped it up, it has been clear that Washington would have to resort to subterfuge, stealth and arm-twisting in pushing through this unique arrangement for India within the global nuclear order. This order prohibits civilian nuclear commerce with a country which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but has exploded atomic bombs.
Tag - Corporate liability
Business must fulfil these obligations in real, substantial, measurable ways—not with vague promises of corporate social responsibility. As the Bhopal case and its toxic aftermath shows, CSR means very little. It is time Indian business rose above the sordid social standards it has long taken for granted.
The government is set to move the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 in the current session of Parliament after withdrawing its earlier draft on March 15 without explanation. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology headed by Congress MP T Subbirami Reddy has since heard various proponents and opponents of the Bill.
While the former mainly comprise Department of Atomic Energy officials, who stress the importance of moving the legislation quickly so as to encourage investment in the nuclear power programme, the objectors are a more plural group, including “official” experts such as former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) A Gopalakrishnan, and independent experts and activists from the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), Greenpeace India and the Delhi Science Forum, as well as political parties.
The opponents have raised a number of issues of vital public importance. The Standing Committee must faithfully and earnestly incorporate their suggestions and the government must pay heed to them if there is to be an informed and intelligent debate on the Bill. Any attempt to rush the Bill through would be thoroughly misguided.
The Group of Ministers' proposals fall short of recommending the minimum the victims of the Bhopal gas disaster deserve in reparation.
It is extremely distressing that the only articulate response from India’s corporate world to the recent Bhopal criminal case judgment has come from HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh. (The Times of India, June 18) Parekh, one of our most respected CEOs who sits on many corporate boards, did not comment, as might be expected of a conscientious person, on the gross unfairness of the verdict, which diminishes an industrial mega-disaster to a mere traffic accident punishable with two years’ imprisonment and a trivial fine (Rs 1 lakh). Rather, he spoke of the unfairness of holding company directors, including former Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) chairman Keshub Mahindra, criminally liable for corporate negligence.
The contrast between BP’s response to the outrage over the oil spill in the US and Union Carbide’s attitude to the uproar over the Bhopal disaster of 1984 couldn’t have been sharper. Confronted by a hostile public and a president who wants to “kick ass”, BP has pledged $20 billion in initial remediation and is mobilising another $50 billion — although its legal liability is only $75 million.
The victims of the world’s worst chemical disaster abandoned hope of securing real justice a long time ago. As someone who covered the gas leak at Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticides plant in Bhopal from an early stage and has probably written more on the issue than any other journalist, I would put the date at February 1989, when the Indian government reached an atrociously inadequate out-of-court settlement with Carbide for $470 million, totalling no more than UCC’s insurance cover plus interest. The Supreme Court put its imprimatur on the deal and extinguished Carbide’s liability, civil and criminal, thus shattering the victims’ hopes of getting enough compensation to pay even for their medical treatment, leave alone damages for prolonged suffering