Bhopal: Flowers at the Altar of Profit and Power

Pearce, Frank and Tombs, Steve (2012). Bhopal: Flowers at the Altar of Profit and Power. North Somercotes: CrimeTalk Books.



“We are not flowers offered at the altar of profit and power. We are dancing flames committed to conquering darkness and to challenging those who threaten the planet and the magic and mystery of life”. So said Rashida Bee, a Bhopal survivor who lost six family members in the disaster.
In December 1984, a massive gas leak killed thousands in and around a Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India; tens of thousands have died since, and many more have had their lives and livelihoods devastated. The US-based company and its CEO remain absconders from Indian justice. They have consistently denied, obfuscated and used the resources at the disposal of the powerful to evade any legal judgment.
This book draws on a considerable literature to make a social scientific judgment of their liability for the world’s worst industrial ‘disaster’. It attempts to convey some of the horrendous events and consequences of the gas leak itself, before examining Union Carbide’s responses to and 'explanations' of the disaster, contrasting these with more persuasive explanations.
The book then poses, and answers, a key question: was the disaster unforeseeable and therefore preventable? In conclusion, we explore corporate rationality and in particular reflect on the view that everything has its price, that money can compensate for any loss or injury. It is this view which helps to explain the manoeuvrings that went into the determination of the deeply problematic legal “settlement” for the victims of Bhopal – a sordid compromise between unequal parties which offers no justice, but underlines why the struggle of Rashida Bee and others around the globe continues.

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