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Nobel laureate Ravindra Nath Tagore once said that every child comes with the hope that
God is not yet discouraged with life. That night Union Carbide proved God wrong
On the night of December 2, 1984, a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India belonging to Union Carbide, a
US multinational, exploded, engulfing the city in a billow of deadly poisonous fumes. Small children
fell like flies, men and women vainly scurried for safety, like wounded animals, only to collapse,
breathless and blinded by the gas. By morning, the death toll was over 500; by sunset, 2,500. By
the following day, numbers had no meaning. That night, Bhopal became the largest peacetime gas
chamber in history.
Nobel laureate Ravindra Nath Tagore once said that every child comes with the hope that God is
not yet discouraged with life. That night in Bhopal, Union Carbide proved God wrong: small children
died in their sleep, clinging to their mothers’ breasts, and little girls of five or six became mothers to
their younger siblings. To date, more than 20,000 people have died and the toll is still rising.
Union Carbide came to India in 1905 while the country was still under British rule. Until the night of
the explosion, the company was best known for the Eveready Battery. By the mid 60s, the
company had moved into agrochemicals and, by the mid 70s, it had become one of India’s largest
manufacturers of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The company’s best-known pesticide product
was Savin Carbaryl, which it promoted to villagers using an enticing marketing gimmick. The
company dispatched special vans equipped with a film screen. The film showed healthy green
crops blowing in the wind. Birds sang and men, women and children beamed with happiness as a
line scrolled across the screen: “Union...