The horror side of capitalism

Jonathan Power; 11/12/09

To describe the Bhopal disaster of 25 years ago – when a chemical plant owned by the Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide sprang a leak and killed 4,000 people instantly and another 15,000 later in an agonising Hiroshima-like death – as “the unacceptable face of capitalism” does not do justice. It was malevolence beyond belief. Union Carbide made only the most modest of efforts to compensate their victims and when later the company was bought out by the American company Dow Chemicals, the insouciance continued. Imagine what would have happened if an Indian company had had an accident like that in the US. The bosses would have ended up behind bars for a very long time. The company would have been milked dry by the courts to compensate the victims and to provide top-notch medical care for the survivors. Here was one of the most sophisticated chemical companies in the world telling its employees not to replace old pipes, lowering the wages of workers, denying all but the most minimal of training and using an anachronistic method of production of fertiliser that all in the industry knew perfectly well could be lethal.