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About the Author

Hemant Jain
Writer, designer (Mumbai, India)

I am a writer and illustrator. I like to tell stories about the world I live in and keep a tab on India's environmental crimes here: http://greatindiansale.blogspot.com/

Post

Questions for the world.

Published 13th June 2010 - 18 comments - 14690 views -

(From Greenpeace archives. Skeletons of the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy. More than 40 tons of methyl isocynate spilled from the Union Carbide owned factory killing more than 20,000 people. After the spill these skulls were researched for effects...) 

Life's been pretty strange these last twelve months or so, hasn't it? There are so many things to talk about, so many questions to ask, but here are some which affected me the most. And which made me endlessly cynical, endlessly pessimistic and endlessly angry. I need answers to these questions. Can someone help?

The climate negotiations. COP15. Oh all that noise. And oh what a big disgrace. We've heard all that before. So here are the questions which refuse to go away in my brain.Just what are we negotiating for? To survive as a planet we do need to live more sustainably, damage the environment a little less, and the responsibility of that lies with every single human on this planet. Then why the North South divide? Why the developing and developed world schism? Why are some countries NOT ready to share the responsibilty? We need to reduce the emissions, so why confuse the debate by bringing in all sorts of other things?

The many debates in think2 answered a lot of those questions. And asked a hell of a lot more. But unfortunately the good intentions of bloggers are not matched by the governments. Which brings me to the one question that has been nagging me: Is dividing the world in different countries, the real problem?

 

Flotilla attack: So, while the world has discussed and seen a whole lot of points and counter points, my simple brain is still asking me the same question. Again and again. Why can't the world just sit together and solve this issue for once and for all? Why the bloodshed? Why the mistrust? Do we really want to solve this? Or does this move economies? Does this perpetuate permanent hatred between religions? Hate is productive. Wars, weapons, oil...it goes on. My question is (perhaps too simplistic and could be put in better words, but I have a simple brain): Is the entire Israel-Palestine issue been kept alive because it moves business?

 

Bhopal: The Union Carbide Gas tragedy in Bhopal is the worst industrial disaster in the history of the world. A warning for everyone. And recently the Indian courts passed the judgement on those responsible. The guilty were let off easily. The main accused is living peacefully in the US for several years. Those affected and dead are still struggling for justice. It opened a can of worms. It showed the dirty underbelly of Indian politics. It showed the arm twisitng tactics of the US. The most powerful country in the world, for whom we all live and die, it seems.

I want to share some links with you which would give you a fairer understanding of the issue: http://bhopal.net/2010dharna/blog/?p=346

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/commentisfree+environment/bhopal

My questions are simple: Why does the US arm twist countries if its proven a US company is criminal? Is this country above humanity?

More importantly: Are the third world countries dumping grounds for untested technologies? The Union Carbide plant in the above case flouted more than 60 safety norms. How did that happen?

 

BP Oil Spill: So Obama is going to kick BPs ass etcetera. But who will kick Dow Chemicals' ass? Who will kick Monsanto's ass? Does a crime against humanity become any lesser because it belongs to a certain country and becomes more if it doesn't? Is humanity = one country? Allow me to quote a Guardian article to explain:

While Barack Obama is lambasting BP for spreading muck in the Gulf of Mexico, he should perhaps pencil in a date with the people of Bhopal when he visits India later this year. While 11 men lost their lives on BP's watch and the shrimps get coated with black stuff, the chemicals that killed thousands of people in Bhopal in 1984 are still leaching into the ground water a quarter of a century after a poisonous, milky-white cloud settled over the city.

The compensation – some $470m – paid out by Union Carbide, the US owner of the plant and now part of Dow Chemical, was just the cash it received from its insurers to compensate the victims, a process that took 17 years. But it's one rule for them and another for anybody else.

From here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2010/jun/10/obama-lessons-bhopal-bp

I have questions. And I want to find their answers. I hope you can join me.

(Burial of an unknown child. Bhopal. 1984. Photographer: Raghu Rai)



Comments

  • Carmen Paun on 13th June 2010:

    Really shocking pictures Hemant! I don’t know much about Bhopal, also because that happened before I was born.
    “Does a crime against humanity become any lesser because it belongs to a certain country and becomes more if it doesn’t? Is humanity = one country?” In my opinion it does depend a lot on the country this kind of tragedies happen. I don’t think humanity is one country, but I think it every government’s responsibility to protect its citizens and to hold responsible each company or individual that kills its citizens.
    “Is the entire Israel-Palestine issue been kept alive because it moves business?” I am not sure about that, but wars and unrests have their own profits, that is true. I think it is very much about people’s inability to let it go, to try harder. Nobody wants to be the loser in the picture. So it keeps going until nothing is left to lose.
    These are just my humble opinions for a few of your big questions to the world.


  • Hemant Jain on 13th June 2010:

    Dear Carmen, Thanks for your comment.
    Wanted to discuss a little more about Bhopal with you.
    Bhopal is one incident which doesn’t have geographical boundaries in my opinion. It is an example of what is truly and utterly wrong with following wrong economic model of growth. Which is what Keynes summed up as “fair is foul and foul is fair”.
    If you read the links above you would see how Bhopal has exposed the hypocrisy of the States in dealing with one company that is British, while ignoring the worst possible crime its own company committed.

    Here’s a glimpse of what happened that night:

    “Carbide was “not prepared to accept any situation” that would reduce its equity below 51%. An “under-investment” totalling $8m, which made its main savings on the potentially lethal methyl-isocyanate-Sevin process, enabled Carbide to keep its majority stake in UCIL. Carbide found the proposed business risk “acceptable”.

    The cuts were savage. Key safety device the Vent Gas Scrubber wasn’t working the night Tank 610 spewed 28 tonnes of methyl isocyanate gas into the lungs of Bhopal’s sleeping half million: it would have made no difference if it had been. The gas poured through it at 200 times the pressure it was designed to handle – a water pistol for an inferno.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/jun/08/bhopal-verdict

    You may want to read more about Bhopal, as it serves as a blueprint for injustice. Around the world. And a constant reminder to all of us about what can go wrong if we don’t pause to think where we are headed collectively as a human race.


  • Andrea Arzaba on 14th June 2010:

    Hemant! It is sad to say this but for governments and other corporations the answer would be yes…how about 9/11? They talked about it so much, movies, masses, tv, interviews, books, data…it was everywhere….and how about Iraq’s occupation war and Middle Easter conflicts… nobody can do much about it…we can just stare and give our opinions… 100% unfair!


  • Stefan on 14th June 2010:

    If one connects the dots between all those problems one for sure might get insane. Mankind will soon reach eclipse (peak human), technological progress, including the organisational structures enable it to parasite the planet to death and with it most of the humans on it, but not to stop while we actually know about the problems.
    The big question is: does the human race have the capacity to react collectively to this challenge? I’m not so sure about this. The main driving force behind our economic and political systems is greed, and we seem to be made in a way that prevents us from doing much about it. While commercials etc. convince people to want things they don’t need, products are designed to fulfil simply the purpose to be consumed and than thrown away. Our political systems function in a similar way: power corrupts, and regardless who is in power the outcome will be similar. And it is very easy to convince people of what they don’t need in politics either: fanaticise them with an ideology that gives them a sense of entitlement over others containing some ideological feedback loop and thought-short-circuit in which they will always be right no matter what argument. Modern mass-media worsens this problem by shortening the attention span - so that people will only hear what they want to hear without thinking about it in a couple of seconds and be served a prejudice in form of the illusion of knowing the truth.
    The worst thing about it is in my opinion that there is not even somebody ‘responsible’ in the end, there is no “Empire” or NWO etc. or the USA, those are simply processes (technological, economical, militarily, social etc.) that developed historically because at one time they were expedient and worked, but now not so much anymore.

    So what to do? I think there is no easy way out and there might even be none. The only way is to keep on trying to find solutions and convince people of them. “Humanitarianism” or a conciousness for world-citizenship is for sure necessary to be promoted. This includes respect for the natural habitat that we depend on. So there is stuff we can do as bloggers and journalist: write and besides focusing on the immensity of the problems, promote hope, but the right kind of hope. That’s basically my answer: let’s keep on trying to change.


  • Carmen Paun on 14th June 2010:

    Dear Hemant, I already started reading more about Bhopal. And I completely agree with you that our model of economic growth went completely wrong if it managed to kill millions of people in Bhopal or in other cases around the world.
    I don’t deny the hypocrisy of the United States. In the same time, reducing it at the level of one family, I would personally try to protect somebody from my family who killed somebody, but I wouldn’t have rest until somebody that killed somebody from my family would be imprisoned. I hope you see my point here.
    In the same time, I am still wondering what did the Indian government and justice system do about this. I will read more and come back on the topic.


  • Clare Herbert on 15th June 2010:

    Shocking photos! Those images will haunt me. Maybe next time you could include a warning at the top of your post so people can avoid such graphic photos if they want.


  • Hemant Jain on 15th June 2010:

    I would have included a warning if this disaster came with one. It happened one night. Silently. And people are still born with malformed limbs and half formed bodies.
    More than 60 norms were flouted by this US company. Dumping of technology?
    Nobody warned the people of Bhopal about what would haunt them for 25 years and counting.
    You are worried about photographs? You should see the people who have been affected.
    Read this:http://development.thinkaboutit.eu/think3/post/the_neverending_tragedy_of_bhopal

    And brace yourself for this world. Humans don’t always paint pretty pictures.


  • Clare Herbert on 15th June 2010:

    Still, I think that journalists/bloggers have a responsibility to protect sensitive readers. Not least because there may be children around. I understand that graphic images are often used for shock-value but I think readers should have a choice whether to read on or not. A writer should not set out to scare people.

    But, that’s not to take away from the horrors of the issue that you are highlighting. I understand how horrendous it is. But, we must use our power as communicators wisely and not allow shock-tactics to distract from the important issues at hand.


  • Hemant Jain on 15th June 2010:

    “people can avoid such graphic photos if they want”
    I can’t get over that. Are you serious? What else can I do? Include music videos so that the worst industrial disaster in the world looks like a Hollywood film?
    I’m sure you would look beyond your grief and actually read about what happened in Bhopal.

    @Carmen, the Indian justice system and government failed miserably in this case.
    There are links above which mention how badly corrupted these people were and how they failed us for over 25 years.
    Read Indra Sinha’s articles speciall
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/commentisfree+environment/bhopal
    And yes you are right. It was a collective failure. But Anderson getting away was more of the Indian govts failure than anyone elses. he was red carpeted out of the country.

    @Stefan: you said: “Humanitarianism” or a conciousness for world-citizenship is for sure necessary to be promoted. This includes respect for the natural habitat that we depend on.
    i could not agree more.


  • Hemant Jain on 15th June 2010:

    Shock tactics?
    I don’t think I have an answer to that. Really. You surprise me.
    Just for your information that image of a child is one of the most iconic images of the tragedy. If you googled ‘Bhopal’ that is the image you would see.
    You know why?
    because it sums up what happened.
    And your reaction is not unlike our Prime Minister and the government. Here is a letter to our PM we wrote:Tell us Prime Minister, did it hurt when they took out your eyes?
    They must be gone because things that appall the rest of us, you seem not to see. You are blind to the agonies of 100,000 people who are still sick in Bhopal 25 years after Union Carbide… See More’s gases leaked there.
    Blind to report after report recording the presence of pesticides and heavy metals in soil and water, and blood, in wombs, and mother’s milk.
    Blind to the children born blind, lame, limbs twisted or missing, deaf-mute, brain-damaged, with cleft-lips, cleft palates, web fingers, cerebral palsy, tumours where should be
    eyes – the children of Bhopal. The living children. The stillborn often can’t be recognised as human.
    You are blind to the Supreme Court order to provide clean water and the failure of officials to obey it. MP Chief Minister Babulal Gaur said there was no money for clean water, then unveiled a 600 crore plan to beautify Bhopal with ornamental fountains.
    Where were you when Bhopali women brought their damaged children to your house? You had them arrested. The policewomen who led them away wept, but your blind eyes did not.
    When they came to your office to protest, did you shut your curtains and say to yourself, ‘I am the Prime Minister of India. I do not have to see police kicking and beating children.’
    Why are you blind to promises you made after the Bhopalis walked to Delhi in 2006 and 2008? Where is the Empowered Commission on Bhopal? When will you take steps against Dow Chemical, the owner of Union Carbide?
    Why are you blind to the note from India’s justice ministry, holding Dow Chemical
    liable for contaminating Bhopal? And for paying for a clean-up?
    Why are you blind to Dow’s admitted bribery of Indian government officials?
    You have proved yourself blind to justice,
    blind to honour, blind to decency, and to the suffering of the poor whom your high office binds you to protect.
    Blind to everything but foreign dollars.
    Prime Minister, can we get our eyes removed too? Because it is becoming extremely difficult to see you ignore the truth and tell us, everything’s ok.


    http://development.thinkaboutit.eu/think3/post/the_neverending_tragedy_of_bhopal

    I think you may need to open your eyes a little more.

    Also, you can avoid my posts as they talk reality. You won’t find candy floss there.


  • Hemant Jain on 15th June 2010:

    This above letter has also been featured in The International Coalition for Justice for Bhopals site: bhopal.net

    http://bhopal.net/2010dharna/blog/?p=346

    Warning: No beautiful images of chidren born blind, lame, limbs twisted or missing, deaf-mute, brain-damaged, with cleft-lips, cleft palates, web fingers, cerebral palsy and tumours.


  • Clare Herbert on 15th June 2010:

    Hermat -

    No need to over-react. I was simply saying that usually when graphic images are included, they come with a warning. By simply including a disclaimer at the top of your post, readers could decide to look away. Most people will read on but out of respect for your readers, I would always give them the option. No need to change the content of your post at all. I’m not suggesting you use ‘candy floss’, but out of respect for your readership, you should warn them of distressing images.

    Lastly, my comment was in relation to your use of distressing images not the tragedy that you discusssed. To say that I am reacting like your Prime Minister is a bit absurd. I’m talking about blogging conventions, not the tragedy. 

    Surely the fact that we are discussing your use of images distracts from the important issue at hand, and I’m sure that wasn’t your reason for writing.

    As I’ve already said I don’t want to take away from the horrors of the issue that you are highlighting in any way.


  • Hemant Jain on 15th June 2010:

    It’s HEMANT, not Hermat. Whoever that is.

    I may make a humble suggestion. The next time you see a post about the Union Carbide Gas Tragedy of Bhopal, look away. You will not find any beautiful images there.

    And also, don’t google ‘Bhopal’ and hit the images button. You will still be greeted with the same images.

    btw what do you think of the images from the BP Oil Spill? Shock tactics?

    I still don’t believe you.


  • Clare Herbert on 15th June 2010:

    Apologies for my mistaken spelling of your name. It was a simple mistake and not meant to cause offence.

    I think I’ve made my point clearly and obviously, you don’t agree. So, I suggest we agree to disagree on this one.

    I think the BP Oil Spill images are shocking but not on the same scale as the ones you used, particularly since they don’t depict people.

    Maybe somebody else would like to contribute an opinion here?

    (Also, even if you disagree with my opinion, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that you speak and write respectfully.)


  • Hemant Jain on 15th June 2010:

    I think the BP Oil Spill images are shocking but not on the same scale as the ones you used, particularly since they don’t depict people.

    Really?

    So we don’t believe in the importance of all life, ecology, environment?

    God bless the birds.


  • Hemant Jain on 15th June 2010:

    Oh and please don’t call me disrespectful. Like I’m not Hermat, I’m not disrespectful. I sometimes get sarcastic specially when I see people turn a blind eye to one of the most dreadful disasters of our time. Saying the images are there for the shock value.
    Specially when I, like millions of young children have GROWN up on these images.
    Specially when our childhood was darkened by one question: Why don’t the culprits get punished?
    Specially when we see people say, our posts should come with warnings and they are shock value.
    Specially when those who comment DON’T read the links.
    If you had read the Guardian link which has far stronger comments than what I wrote you would not be speaking like this.

    As for the images of the birds, if they don’t move you because they are not human, it’s but obvious you would find the images from Bhopal of shock value.

    One last thing: This post is a reaction to the judgement that was given on the Bhopal case 26 years after the tragedy. A week ago. But it was only covered widely in the international media. Maybe you missed it.


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