Finalist in the 2010 Dark Side Case Writing Competition organized by Critical Management Studies Interest Group of the Academy of Management (AOM)

Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Revisited after Twenty-five Years

Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Revisited after Twenty-five Years
Case Code: BECG115
Case Length: 34 Pages
Period: 1984-2010
Pub Date: 2012
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.500
Organization: Union Carbide Corporation, Dow Chemicals Company
Industry: Chemicals
Countries: India
Themes: Business Ethics, Corporate Accountability, Multinational Corporations in Transnational Accountability
Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Revisited after Twenty-five Years
Abstract Case Intro 1 Case Intro 2 Excerpts

Excerpts

Negligent Management Practices at UCIL

In 1980, trouble started brewing at the Bhopal plant with several incidents of death and injury being reported. For instance, in December 1981, a plant operator was killed due to a phosgene gas leak and two others were injured. In view of these accidents, UCC sent three American engineers to conduct an audit at the UCIL plant. These engineers were entrusted with the task of evaluating the site to see whether it met all the safety standards laid down by UCC. The audit team noted that the plant had leaking valves and 61 hazards were reported. Of these, 30 were major and 11 had occurred in the MIC/phosgene unit...

That Fateful Night

At around 9:30 pm on December 2, 1984, a large quantity of water entered storage tank 610 containing more than 40 tons of MIC (Refer to Exhibit I for chronology of events after the disaster). When water mixed with MIC, it triggered an exothermic reaction, producing a lot of heat...

UCC's Take on the Tragedy

While the government, citizens, and industry watchers held UCC responsible for the tragic incident, UCC had a different take. When informed about the incident, Mukund's first reaction was, "The gas leak just can't be from my plant. The plant is shut down. Our technology just can't go wrong, we just can't have such leaks."...

The Sabotage Theory

It was reported that nearly 500 experiments had been conducted on the residue of tank 610 by UCC, the government, and other independent organizations. However, a study carried out by Arthur D Little, paid for by UCC, had an interesting story to narrate. It reported that water could have been deliberately added to the tank that led to a massive chemical reaction since all the safety systems were in place and were operational enough to control the flow of water to the tank. In March 1985, UCC issued its research report in which it concluded that water had entered the MIC tank......

Settlement Made by UCC

After a few months of the disaster, the GoI appointed itself as the exclusive representative of the victims for any legal dealings with UCC related to compensation. It passed the Bhopal Gas Leak (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985, and equipped with this power, the GoI filed a lawsuit to claim damages and compensation against UCC with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York...

The Tragedy Continues

Having paid the US$470 million compensation, UCC maintained that it did not have any more liability for the tragic incident. However, survivors of Bhopal gas tragedy argued that UCC and Anderson should be brought to justice. Both UCC and Anderson were accused of manslaughter, grievous assault, poisoning and killing of animals, and other serious offences. Anderson, who was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder by the local court, did not even have to face the courts, as he was released on bail on December 7, 1984,...

Longest-Running Struggle Against Corporate Crime

Following the disaster, a number of experienced activists from around the world and the country converged on Bhopal to support the relief effort, but it soon became a grassroots struggle based on independent trade unions, neighborhood committees, and pensioners' rights campaign. The target of their protest was the government, UCC, and – since 2001 – Dow. They wanted the government to press Dow to pay compensation to take care of all the healthcare and economic needs of the survivors and their children, clean up the site, and ensure that Anderson and other authorized representatives of UCC were brought to justice....

Two Decades and a Half Later...

On July 31, 2009, a few months before the 25 th anniversary of the disaster, the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal court re-issued a warrant for the arrest of Anderson. However, no action was taken. On November 29, 2009, the survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy staged violent protests and burned effigies of Anderson, demanding his arrest. The victims demanded that the government get Anderson extradited or have him face trial in an American court. The victims also demanded pension for widows of victims who had lost their lives. They insisted that the government provide them with pure water to drink and remove the toxic wastes lying in the surrounding areas of the plant.....

Can Accountability be Fixed?

Dow continued to maintain that it did not have any liability since UCC had settled the matter by paying a one-time compensation of US$470 million. Its spokesman Scott Wheeler (Wheeler) said that Dow had β€œnever owned or operated the Bhopal plant site and Dow did not inherit any liabilities of Union Carbide Corp.” 62 Dow added that the responsibility of the plant now rested with the state government and hence it was not responsible for the safety of the citizens and clean-up of the site.....

Exhibits

Exhibit I: Bhopal Gas Tragedy: A Timeline
Exhibit II: Map Showing Approximate Spread of Gas
Exhibit III: Some Measures Taken by the Government and other Organizations to Help the Victims
Exhibit IV: Images of the Victims of the Gas Tragedy: 1984
Exhibit V: Safety Measures in UCC Plants in the US and India
Exhibit VI: A Brief Note on The Dow Chemical Company
Exhibit VII: Scenes at the Deserted Plant
Exhibit VIII: Children Suffering from Congenital Disorders
Exhibit IX: Images of Protests against Dow on the 25th Anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy
Exhibit X: Health Effects of Key Chemicals Found in Water in the Vicinity of the Plant

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