Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain, a film on the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, was declared tax-free in Madhya Pradesh by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. "Such tragedy should never take place in any city of the world and development should never take place at the cost of human being's existence," he said after watching its premiere at Ashima Mall, a local Cineplex on the occasion of 30th anniversary of the world's worst industrial disaster. Chouhan also praised the director and actors of the film for their "heart-rending" performance. However Mr. Babulal Gaur, Home Minister of the state, accompaning the Chief Minister claimed that the film was in favour of Warren Anderson. He said that the film praised Warren Anderson and blamed the local officers of the factory for the mishap. He also said that the film depicts Union Carbide adhering to the local laws in all other countries of operation, which is wrong.


Bhopal The Carbide Timeline

Artist Pete Dunne's Untitled. Dunne was living in a small town less than 100km from Bhopal at the time of the disaster
Tweeter session from 3rd December 2014   tinyurl.com/n8r49dz  

In 1917, a merger of four companies in USA creates the Union Carbide & Carbon Corp., makers of carbon rods for street lights, electrodes for furnaces and Eveready batteries.

1920 Expanding into chemicals, Union Carbide establishes the first commercial ethylene plant.

1947 The company acquires a facility in Institute, West Virginia. The Kanawha River Valley site will be dubbed “Chemical Valley” as chemical companies cluster there.

1960 Production of the trademarked insecticides Sevin (carbaryl) and, later, Temik (aldicarb) commences at the Institute plant. A key intermediate chemical is the highly reactive MIC, or methyl isocyanate.

1969 Union Carbide India Ltd. (UCIL) opens a facility in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state, producing insecticides for the agricultural market in India. The formulations are made with imported chemicals.

The Ghosts Of Bhopal - Part Four

Part Four: Mass Tort

John P. Coale, lawyer, behind his desk at his 22nd Street office. Dudley Brooks/The Washington Post via Getty Images
John Coale was in the back of a taxicab, riding down Washington, D.C.’s Massachusetts Avenue. The radio was on, the news announcer relating details of a catastrophic gas leak in India at a facility owned by Union Carbide, total casualties as yet unknown.

Coale didn’t need to know the final number. What was running through his head like an old stock ticker tape was this thought: “That’s a huge American legal case and I want to be a part of it.” This was before Big Tobacco, a colossus of a suit. Coale was a key member of the so-called Castano litigation, a class-action that went after the tobacco companies for fraud, deceit and negligent misrepresentation in not informing smokers of the addictive properties of cigarettes. That action, which Coale would deem “the mother of all lawsuits,” launched a decade after Bhopal.

The Ghosts Of Bhopal - Part Three

Part Three: Post Mortem

Dr. Satpathy ordered that each unclaimed body be photographed and identified by number.
Dec. 3, 1984.

Stones tapping at the window.

What time is it?

Certainly past midnight.

The sound is loud enough and persistent enough to rouse Dr. D.K. Satpathy from his slumbers.

Fie. The man throwing these stones is a known drunkard. This is what the pathologist thinks to himself. The doctor cannot be bothered with such nonsense at this hour.

Dr. Satpathy was certainly not lazy. He would want the world to understand this. Though his workweeks were long, he prided himself on his readiness to conduct a post-mortem at a moment’s notice. Sundays. Holidays. Diwali. Such occasions mean nothing to a true professional. Suppose a mother has lost her son and it is Good Friday. (This is how he would phrase it.) If he were not to conduct a post-mortem in the instant, the body could not then be prepared for burial and the whole day will be a black day for her.

How long does an autopsy take? To incise a Y formation, from the clavicle, coming to a single rill down the torso to the pubis, an examination of viscera. One hour? Two at most. And then, the pathologist may resume his private affairs. His day remains to be enjoyed. (This is also how he would phrase it.)


The Ghosts of Bhopal - Part Two

Part Two: Building a New India



Daulat Singh Rajput, a local farmer

The village square in Dhamarra, 30 kilometres north of Bhopal, is centred by a vibrantly painted Hindu temple (hibiscus pinks and sea blues), a russet-coloured made-in-India Massey Ferguson 1035 DI tractor, and two cows.

In a moment, the tractor will taka-taka-taka out to the fields, the two cows will amble behind and farmer Daulat Singh Rajput will wade into his soybean and chick pea acreage to recount the story of a rural revolution.

The acrid heart of the world’s worst industrial disaster lies within the corrosive skeleton of the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal.

But in a way, its soul lies here, in rural India.

The Ghosts of Bhopal - Part One

Part One: Wedding Season 

Nadir Khan
The night was black as batwings and the winds were growing colder as Nadir Khan clocked out of his job at the Union Carbide factory, strode past the security guard station, then through the front gate and headed for home.

Sunday, Dec. 2, 1984. The date carried no significance when Khan commenced his shift at 3 p.m. It was a Sunday like any other. Eight hours later, as he returned to his rough shanty in the bustee of Jaiprakash Nagar, there was little to remark upon. Or at least little that was known to Khan.

It was wedding season in Bhopal, the lake city of Madhya Pradesh, the state that lies in the very heart of India. If a bejeweled white stallion had cantered along Berasia Road that December night and disappeared like an apparition into the wind, no one would have batted an eye, least of all Nadir Khan. Baraats, or wedding processions, reach their peak in the winter months and Khan had come to know this as a seasonal commonplace.

To see Khan that night would be to observe a 35-year-old, slight of build, medium height, with a full head of dark hair and a pencil moustache that arced dashingly above his plush upper lip. He walked south on Berasia, then east along what had come to be known as Union Carbide Road. He was not the type to hurry his walk.