by MONITOR

BHOPAL in India is a long way from where we are and 25 years is a long time to try to keep in mind what happened there then. But put simply a chemical plant owned by the American Union Carbide Corporation leaked a noxious gas which killed 8'000 people within hours and some 25'000 more over the years.

It was the world's worst industrial disaster but it has taken a quarter-of-a-century to bring the case to court and this week in Bhopal seven employees of the company were given two-year sentences but immediately released on bail pending appeals which may not be heard for years. Union Carbide claims it had no responsibility for its subsidiary in Bhopal and in any case it now belongs to Dow Chemical. There remains Warren Anderson who was Union Carbide's CEO at the time of the accident and was once arrested in India but left the country while on bail and refuses to return. Its a sad story from which no one emerges with credit, least of all the Indian judicial system.

It obviously must be expected that the consequences of BPs Gulf of Mexico oil-spill disaster will be dealt with in a more responsible and timely way. But the Bhopal disaster reminds us that ensuring that major industries behave honestly cannot ever be taken for granted.

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