Why Union Carbide ex-CEO Anderson is Bhopal's tormentor: Explained

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Warren Anderson, the former chief executive officer of the Union Carbide Corporation which came to the headlines after a deadly gas disaster killed thousands and left several more injured in Bhopal in 1984, died on September 29 at a nursing home in Vero Beach in Florida. He was 92.

Who was Warren Anderson?

  • Anderson was CEO of Union Carbide Corporation at the time the gas leak incident took place in Bhopal.
  • He faced grave criminal charges of homicide, grievous assault and killing and poisoning of animals and if convicted would have spent a lifetime in jail.
  • Anderson came to India days after the accident and was charged and arrested on grounds of manslaughter but left on bail of Rs 25,000.

The Bhopal gas tragedy

  • The Bhopal gas tragedy, was a gas leak incident in the country, considered as the world's worst industrial disaster.
  • The accident took place on the night of 2-3 December 1984 at Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal.
  • During the accident, copious amounts of a deadly toxin methyl isocynate (MIC) was released into the air that was borne downstream.
  • Over 500,000 people were exposed to gas and other chemicals.
  • Soon, the toxic substance spread in the nearby towns leading to large number of casuality(As per reports, 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas was leaked)
  • Though some managed to escape the deadly fumes, but suffered life-long medical problems. 

How many died?

  • The official immediate death toll was 2,259. 
  • The Madhya Pradesh Government confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release.
  • Others estimate 8,000 died within two weeks and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related diseases.
  • A Government affidavit in 2006 stated the leak caused 558,125 injuries including 38,478 temporary partial injuries and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries.

After effects of the tragedy

  • Many of the common side effects are bloated faces, thinning hair or hair loss and abnormal growths. 
  • People are still suffering from health issues, including lung cancer and kidney and liver failure.
  • Children born years after the incident are also suffering from poor health due to the effects the leak had on their mothers. 
  • Many children suffer from stunted physical and mental growth.
  • A study has proven that the site continues to slowly poison the drinking water used by thousands of locals.

Reasons for the accident

  • The cause of the disaster still remain under debate. 
  • The local activists argue that lack of management and deferred maintenance led to the accident.
  • They say routine pipe maintenance caused a backflow of water into a MIC tank triggering the disaster. 
  • While, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) contends water entered the tank through an act of sabotage.

The political conspiracy

  • Anderson was left on bail of Rs 25,000 by then Government.
  • He was reportedly flown out of India on a private plane arranged by Congress leader Arjun Singh, then the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Anderson never returned to India and was declared as fugitive by Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal in 1992. 
  • The Indian Government tried to get him extradited to India a number of times but to no avail.
  • The US and Indian Governments both insisted that Anderson was missing and could not be traced.
  • In September 2002, activists working on behalf of Bhopal gas victims found Anderson living with his wife in a $900,000 house in New York.

How much Union agreed to pay?

  • In 1989, Union Carbide paid $470 million to the Indian Government to settle litigation stemming from the disaster.
  • The amount was dismissed by victims as it was little given the magnitude of the tragedy.
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