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|EDITORIAL: Bhopal Betrayed
Amid the appalling, 26-year-long heartbreaking story of the betrayal of the victims of the world’s largest industrial disaster in Bhopal in 1984, there is one silver lining — the indefatigable determination of the Bhopal survivors who have refused to go down quietly.
Supporters of Bhopal survivors have been scathing about the role of Union Carbide and its current owner Dow Chemical, both U.S. multinationals, in refusing to own up to their responsibility.
There’s also the fact that the Indian government, political leadership and even the judiciary have been derelict in their duty in pursuing the case, and at the end of the day, if the nation itself has failed the people of Bhopal, doesn’t the critique against U.S. multinationals lose some of its sting?
For all the complicity of the political establishment, the Indian public has an instinctive understanding of the outrageous injustice done to Bhopal survivors. This is why the recent light sentence on the Bhopal case, delivered over a quarter of a century later, kicked up such a fierce political firestorm.
It made the powers that be sit up and take notice. A Group of Ministers panel of federal ministers was hastily drawn together, and in double-quick time, a set of recommendations were handed out.
Alas, Bhopal survivors were let down again. Chennai-based activist journalist Nityanand Jayaraman presents a detailed overview in this month’s cover story.
Indian Americans are on a roll. Of course, the rising profile of the old country and the growing visibility of the Indian community in the U.S. are not exactly new developments. However, this year brings new signs of success in an area which has been difficult for Indian Americans until now: U.S. politics.
Until now, Indians got close to the political system the old-fashioned way. They paid handsomely for the privilege of photo-ops with assorted politicians, who were only too happy to show up at fundraisers and accept the moolah, ever ready with yet another paean to the model minority and success of the desis.
Yet the fact was that Indian Americans had very few of their own in the political process.
That has been slowly changing. Here and there in this huge diverse country, Indian Americans have gradually been making their mark. Generally they were of Indian descent, but raised in this country. Kumar Barve, majority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates, is now a major player in state politics. In Minnesota, Satveer Chaudhry has worked his way up to the state senate.
This year, however, seems different. The Associated Press reports that at least eight Indian Americans are running for office, most in federal races, and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley is poised to become the second Indian American governor after Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal.
Is it a new dawn for Indian American political success in the United States? Siliconeer offers an analysis in this month’s issue.
Indian policymakers who have dreamed of the nation’s unbridled access to nuclear technology must be bristling at the irony of it all. Here they were, ready to bask in the glory of achieving a remarkable diplomatic breakthrough, and yet domestic opposition threatens to ruin it all.
Gone are the days when its nuclear testing had earned the implacable hostility of the U.S., with international calls for India to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Thanks to the profound geopolitical changes following the fall of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and India’s embrace of neo-liberal economic policy, India’s stock shot up in global geopolitics, augmented by its impressive economic growth and its prowess in information technology.
What started under U.S. President George W. Bush continued under U.S. President Barack Obama, and India got to eat its cake and have it, too. Pretty much all international nuclear sanctions against India were lifted and India is now ready to launch an ambitious nuclear power plan.
Not so fast.
Now there is a growing clamor within India to dump a proposed bill that will limit the liability of foreign companies that provide technology or help set up nuclear plants in the event of any disaster.
With the BP oil spill in the U.S. fresh on the minds of many, and a recent verdict on Bhopal rekindling memories of how badly corporations can screw up, it is now skeptical domestic public opinion that presents the biggest challenge to India’s ambitious nuclear power expansion plans. A detailed article takes up the issue this month.