Rights activists said it was a pity that then Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson died without facing trial for the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster that killed thousands.
Activists who spoke on telephone from Bhopal also denounced the Indian and US governments for not taking steps that would have led to his arrest and extradition to India.
Anderson, 92, died Sep 29 in Florida in the US. His death was not announced by the family but confirmed from public records, The New York Times reported.
A Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal spewed poisonous gas on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984 killing about 3,000 people instantly and thousands more over the years, making it the world’s worst industrial disaster.
“It is a matter of great shame that this corporate criminal has died unshackled because of the protection offered by the US government and the negligence of the Indian government,” Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action told IANS.
An arrest warrant was issued for Anderson, and a Bhopal court declared him an absconder.
Sarangi, a metallurgical engineer turned activist who has been in Bhopal since the disaster, said Anderson deserved to face charges of homicide and grievous assault that would have sent him to prison for life.
“Unfortunately that did not happen,” he said.
“But we believe that the circumstance of his death and the fact that the death had to be kept a secret will be some kind of a lesson for corporate criminals who put profit before life.”
Another activist, Abdul Jabbar, said Anderson was very much to blame for the Bhopal tragedy and that is why the Central Bureau of Investigation named him the no. 1 accused.
“A Bhopal judge issued a warrant for his arrest in March 1992. But just imagine, after so many years this was never executed and Anderson remained a free man.
“This is not a small matter,” Jabbar told IANS. “Indian governments kept promising that they were doing everything to bring him to India for trial. But nothing happened.”
In 1989, Union Carbide paid $470 million to the Indian government to settle litigation stemming from the disaster. The settlement was denounced by rights activists as peanuts considering the tragedy.
The Indian government later paid Rs.8 lakh to the kin of each person who died.
Jabbar said Anderson’s death should be a relief to the Indian authorities.
“They don’t have to say any more they are chasing him.”
He hit out at both the US and Indian administrations for not being serious about proceeding legally against Anderson.
“Indian governments indirectly supported Anderson. The Anderson saga has sent out a very bad message. That multinationals can get away with murder.
“The American hypocrisy has been exposed. Their concept of justice is skewed. If they want, they can kill Osama bin Laden in another country. If they want, they can let Anderson remain in their own territory despite an arrest warrant.”
Sarangi and Jabbar put the number of deaths caused by the Bhopal disaster at between 25,000 and 35,000.
“Today there are 120,000-150,000 people with chronic illnesses caused by the gas leak,” Sarangi said.
“Tens of thousands of second generation children suffer from growth and development disorders. And an unusually large number of children also have birth defects in Bhopal.”