Thirty two-years ago, on this day in 1984, India witnessed one of the world’s worst chemical disasters, the Bhopal gas tragedy.
When the nation was asleep, a poisonous gas leaked from the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) factory which was built in 1969 to produce a pesticide called Sevin in Bhopal. This gas tragedy killed thousands of people due to accidental leakage of nearly 42 tonnes of toxic gas, Methyl Iso Cyanate (MIC), in the intervening night of 2-3 December.
The Madhya Pradesh government confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths, 558,125 injuries, including 38,478 partial injuries and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries.
Organizations that have been fighting for justice for the Bhopal tragedy victims have repeatedly highlighted that the disaster is still ongoing and the generations born after the incident are also marked by the poisons that leaked from the pesticide factory.
For over three decades, life has been a series of court cases — to hold the company and its officials accountable for the disaster, to get them punished for negligence, and to get adequate compensation for all victims of the tragedy.
A long legal battle ensued but 32 years later, victims are yet to find justice.
There have been small victories. In 2010, the chief judicial magistrate of Bhopal prosecuted a few Union Carbide officials, but restricted punishment to two years imprisonment.
Here is the timeline of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy:
Dec 2-3, 1984: The poisonous gas leaked from the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) factory.
Dec 3, 1984: Thousands were killed and millions were affected.
Dec 4, 1984: Warren Anderson, the chairman of Union Carbide, was arrested along with nine others and urged by the Indian government to leave the country within 24 hours.
Dec 4, 1984 Word of the disaster is received at Union Carbide headquarters in Connecticut. Chairman and CEO Warren Anderson, together with a technical team, depart to India to assist the government in dealing with the incident. Upon arrival, Anderson is placed under house arrest
Dec 4, 1984 Union Carbide organises a team of international medical experts, as well as supplies and equipment, to work with the local Bhopal medical community
Dec 4, 1984: He was out on bail of $2,000, upon a promise to return. Union Carbide is named as the 10th accused in a criminal case charged with culpable homicide.
Dec 4, 1984: The UCC technical team begins assessing the cause of the gas leak.
Dec 6, 1984: The case was transferred to CBI
Dec 14, 1984: Carbide Chairman Testifies Before U.S. Congress
1985: Union Carbide establishes a fund for victims of the tragedy -- the (UCC) Employees' Bhopal Relief Fund -- that collects more than $120,000.
1985: Government files claim for $3.3 billion from Union Carbide in an American court.
December 1, 1987: The CBI filed the charge sheet after investigation and subsequently, the CJM framed charges against the accused under section 304 Part (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), section 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and other relevant sections of IPC.
1989: Indian government and Union Carbide strike out-of-court deal, Union Carbide gives $ 470 million.
February 1989: Non-bailable warrant of arrest against Warren Anderson for repeatedly ignoring summons. Government and union carbide fix an out-of-court deal and the company provided a compensation of $470 million.
February - March 1989: People start protesting the unjust settlement followed by filing of a number of review and writ petitions against.
1992: Part of $ 470 million disbursed among victims. Anderson declared fugitive from law for ignoring court summons.
February 1992: Anderson was declared fugitive by law for ignoring court summons
November 1994: Despite numerous petitions by survivors' groups, the Supreme Court allows Union Carbide to sell stake in UCIL to McLeod Russell (India) Ltd of Calcutta.
2001: Union Carbide refuses to take responsibility for former Indian arm's liabilities.
2004: Supreme Court orders government to pay out rest of $ 470 million paid by Union Carbide as compensation.
June 2010: Seven former employees of UCIL, (all Indians) were convicted of causing death by negligence. They were each sentenced to two years imprisonment and fined Rs one lakh each. However, all were released on bail shortly after the verdict.
September 2014: Anderson died at the age of 92 at a nursing home in the US.