Friday, June 18, 2010

Accused of Protecting Self Interest

This article from IBN-Live reports "Whether it's the Bhopal gas tragedy or the oil spill, the US government is being accused of protecting its own interests." which makes one wonder who might these bright folks be that are doing such accusing. Last I heard, a government is supposed to protect its own interests and unless someone shows how this has changed overnight, the inanity of such accusations will remain baffling to me. Such vacuity would not be of much importance during the normal course (who would be surprised to find such inanity in the daily news items?) but in so far as such accusations divert the attention from the real culprits, they should be addressed.

It is the job of Indian government (and not US) to ensure that interests of Indian citizens are protected. And what has the attitude of various governments in India during this whole Bhopal Gas Tragedy episode been? "Protective of its citizens' interest" is exactly not the answer that leaps to mind. In fact, the attitude has been anything but protective.

Arjun Singh, the then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, hoping to score a few political points for the upcoming elections got Warren Anderson briefly arrested in his own guest house and released him a day later on orders from central government headed by Rajiv Gandhi. As if in an apology for the inconvenience caused, a government aircraft was arranged to take Anderson to Delhi from where he then boarded a plane back to US, never to be seen again on Indian soil. Since then Indian government has never made a sincere effort for extradition of Anderson.

In 1989 Indian government struck an out-of-court settlement with Union Carbide for $470 million in compensation, reduced from original claim of $3.3 billion filed earlier in an american court, essentially reducing the price tag attached to an Indian life. That US places a larger values on its citizens lives can not be held against it.

Not only did the subsequent government of Manmohan Singh refused to increase the payout to the victims but he has also been heard saying "Bhopals will happen, but the country has to progress" suggesting that such accidents are part and parcel of country's high growth agenda. If the Indian Prime Minister himself advocates a move on approach,  can we expect others to be more sympathetic to our problems?

Given such attitude of successive Indian governments (all headed by Congress party) and absurdly slow Indian judicial system (26 years to pass judgement in the worst industrial disaster!), it is ridiculous to accuse US of what essentially is an Indian failing.
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