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Global media censures Indian govt on Bhopal

Source: PTI
June 09, 2010 16:24 IST
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Labelling the Bhopal gas tragedy as world's worst industrial accident, global media has censured the Indian government for 'a callous' and 'confused' approach to corporate liability and warned it against luring foreign companies with low limits on liability.

Describing the court verdict in the case as 'inappropriate punishment' after almost a quarter of a century since the disaster, the international media overwhelmingly held the Indian government and the judiciary responsible for the travesty.

Pointing fingers at the controversial Civil Nuclear Liability Bill, now before Parliament, international media commented that the legislation continued to set a low bar on liability in order to attract foreign companies and governments.

The leading papers were also equally unsparing on American multinational company Dow Chemicals for refusing to clean up the site as well as on US administration saying it had not emerged with great honour by blocking India's request for extradition of the former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson.

Britain's 'The Times' said, under the bill, a central part of the controversial 2008 Indo-US nuclear pact, the liability for nuclear disaster would be capped at $ 460 million- far below likely clean up cost. It said, in the US, each nuclear plant is required to pay into a fund that could pay out some $ 10 billion in case of exigencies.

"Clearly companies need confidence about potential liabilities, if they are to invest. But India is asking too little", the paper said. 'The Times' commented that, Indian court system took so long and downgraded charges to negligence despite reports of clear mismanagement.

It also said, the Dow Chemicals which had taken over the Union Carbide in 1999 too bore responsibility for not cleaning up the site.

On Monday, after over 25 years, eight people were convicted for one of the world's major industrial disasters and sentenced two years in prison. While one of the accused is dead, the other seven were granted bail in a case in which more than 15,000 people were killed.

The Indian legal system also came in for sharp criticism by the US media. 'The New York Times' said that Indian courts are notoriously slow and claimed that the Bhopal verdict indicated that the wealthy can outwit Indian judiciary.

"It could be extraordinary for something like this to happen in US.... regardless of the merits of pronouncing any verdict the courts have to decide fast so that the decision has consequences," the paper said.

The Bhopal gas verdict has touched a chord in US and it has come at a time when the Americans are struggling with the Gulf Coast oil spill.

'The New York Times' said activists are seeking to get the Dow Chemicals to clean up almost 425 tonnes of hazardous waste still left on the accident site.

A repetition of Bhopal tragedy is hard to imagine, Britain's 'The Time' commented, saying, that in today's world internet and television would whip up a global fury. But the view that politicians can set companies undemanding rules to further other goals remains intact in many places---not least in India," it said.

"New Delhi has done little to dispel many Indians' old suspicion of foreign investment, a mistrust their country cannot afford", 'The Times' summarised.

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