A survey conducted by YouGov for Amnesty International in US among Indians and US citizens validates the points being raised by activists fighting for justice for one of the worst industrial disasters which left more than 20,000 people dead and poisoned more than half a million in 1984.
The survey finds that 82% of Indians surveyed want to see the Union Carbide attend the Indian courts about its role in the gas leak at the Bhopal plant.
While fewer US respondents expressed a view, of those who did, almost two thirds (62%) agreed with that call. The corporation has consistently refused to answer charges of culpable homicide in the Indian courts.
The poll of 1,011 Indians living in urban areas and 1,000 US adults reveals strong support in both countries for the US and Indian governments to ensure that Union Carbide is held account for the Bhopal disaster. Seventy per cent of Indians and 45% of US nationals surveyed believed that the US government should play a role in holding the corporation to account, against 24% and 30% respectively who disagreed.
Sixty-six per cent of Indian and 45% of US respondents believe that the companies who owned and operated the Bhopal site should pay for the clean-up of the contamination.
The only area of disagreement between Indian and American respondents came over compensation for the disaster. The Union Carbide agreed to pay US$470 million (equivalent to around $900 million in today’s money) in 1989, around 14 per cent of the US$3.3 billion figure that the Indian government had initially demanded. The government of India is now seeking additional compensation from the company.
Half of Indians surveyed said that the compensation package should be reopened, with only 27% believing it to be a just settlement. In the US sample, by contrast, only 21% believed the 1989 settlement should be reassessed, with nearly half – 47% - believing it should stay as it is.
“This poll shows that the verdict in the court of public opinion is clear. Justice has not been delivered for Bhopal, and people will not stand for it,” said Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International.