Monday, June 21, 2010

Wah India! Twenty thousand pardons | The Asian Age

Wah India! Twenty thousand pardons | The Asian Age

Frankly, the only person coming out like a decent human being in the ongoing Bhopal trial court conviction of seven high-profile people associated with the world’s worst industrial disaster, is veteran lawyer Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney General of India. I am sure he sleeps well at night and is able to look himself in the eye when he wakes up without cringing. He recently revealed how a prominent legal firm (J.B. Dadachanji and Co.) tried to rope him in to defend what we all know was indefensible to begin with. They had most of the other top drawer lawyers like Nani Palkhiwala, Fali Nariman and Anil Diwan in their kitty by then. Soli flatly refused to jump on the bandwagon, saying the victims of the disaster probably needed his advice far more! This was a brave decision which may have isolated him from the other legal brains who had signed on to represent Union Carbide and protect the interests of the American company. But that’s Soli. Nothing new about such a strategy. It is the same story today — any legally compromised corporation which is able to flaunt big bucks resorts to exactly the same strategy — buy up the best legal brains in the Lawyer Supermarket and make sure the other side is starved of equally powerful representation. Such intimidatory tactics have been going on for decades, and New Delhi is full of high-profile hustlers who charge by the micro second, rarely read briefs and are the real power brokers in a town that thrives on little else but that elusive entity — power.
In such a cosy environment, where the Big Boys’ Club consists of ridiculously paid lawyers who reputedly fix any and every loophole in their clients’ favour, it is indeed reassuring to know that at least one man from the same tribe did stand up when he had to and had the moral courage to say “No”. It has come to a stage when all a corporate crook needs to get away with blue murder (in the Union Carbide case, literally so) is to hire the best legal eagles on the shelf — the whole lot (cheaper by the dozen?) and then play the nasty waiting game. Our system is such, as the Bhopal issue has once again established. The world must be laughing at us —from 1984 to 2010, this is the “progress” we have made. And look at the absurd outcome of that progress — Warren Anderson, the Union Carbide Corporation CEO who flew the coop with enviable ease right after 20,000-plus Indians had perished in the most blood curdling way, is busy enjoying his autumn years in the Hamptons where he lives a luxurious, retired life. He is a doddering old man now… no point in going after him. Besides, he knows and we know, America is hardly likely to let us get our hands on a person known as the Butcher of Bhopal. That was a given then, it is a given now — as we are discovering to our horror. Three days after the gas leak had effectively flattened the town, Anderson was given a great send off by the then chief minister Arjun Singh. Tapes and TV footage of that cowardly exit show a cocky Anderson declaring, “House arrest or no arrest, bail or no bail, I am free to go home. That is the law of the United States… India, bye-bye… thank you”. Such was the arrogance of the man, and the shameless complicity of the Indian administration, that cringe-making visuals of that ignominious exit show our spineless policemen and other officials saluting him as he escaped his rightful punishment in India and flew back home to freedom.
The question to ask is: What has changed today, if anything? It still works in the same nauseating way. Is anything further going to be done to the desi directors who are out on bail? Not a chance. They must have laughed at the ridiculousness of it all when they had to put in a mandatory appearance in court recently before climbing into their individual limos and rushing off to the nearest club for a gin-and-tonic to calm those nerves. These men fall into the “pillars of society” category — they are well-respected individuals with impeccable social pedigrees. But the fact remains a court has found them guilty (so what if the verdict was delivered 25 years after the crime was committed?). They still remain convicted men who are out on bail. Just like other criminals. The nature of their crime is monumental and repugnant. But what they and their mighty lawyers must be banking on right now is the great advantage that delayed justice provides to perpetrators of unspeakably gruesome crimes in our country. Wearing down victims is just a small part of the overall strategy. And if the families of those who lost their loved ones experience a deep sense of frustration, helplessness and rage, well, too bloody bad. This is India — have money, will win. No matter how serious the crime — and in the Carbide case, the world agrees it can’t get any more heinous or callous. But what does anybody care? Pitiful compensation is supposed to take care of the emotional loss suffered by these people who have battled on for so many years in the hope their wounds will finally be healed once the criminals are brought to justice. Now, even that hope which has kept them going for so long is dwindling rapidly. They must watch the nightly buck-passing taking place brazenly across TV channels and save their tears in sheer disbelief. Arjun Singh says one thing, Arun Singh another. While even mentioning Rajiv Gandhi in passing is seen as sacrilege. This is the sorry environment we foster — whether it is probing the Indian Premier League scandal or providing justice to the Bhopal gas tragedy victims.
Soon, even this will become a dead story. The engineered fury of a few will vanish just as soon as it manifested itself. The men who were prosecuted will nonchalantly continue their golf and gin-tonic routines, safe in the knowledge kuch nahi hoga.
And the ageing Warren Anderson will eventually die a peaceful death in the Hamptons… unlike the over 20,000 Indians who weren’t as lucky when they gasped their last breaths in distant Bhopal 25 years ago.
Wah! India! Wah! Union Carbide Corporation ko sirf saat khoon nahi balki bees hazaar khoon maaf!
— Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com

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