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March 6, 2000
Former Union Carbide boss goes into hiding
A P Kamath
Fifteen years after the chemical disaster in Bhopal claimed more than 3,000 lives and injured thousands, Union Carbide increasingly finds its name finding unfavourable mention in seminars and teach-ins dealing with corporate responsibility. A slew of seminars, many of them being organized by Indian activists, including Arvind Rajgopal, a professor at New York University, are rekindling interest in the tragedy.
Bhopal Express, a film produced by Deepak Nayar, a non-resident movie-maker based in Hollywood, was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival last month and is scheduled for a run across North America in the next few weeks.
"With globalization being the in-thing today, the new generation should know what multinationals have done in a country like India," said Simran S Singh, a New York student.
"The world should know what the multinationals are capable of doing." At least a dozen Bhopal related teach-ins have been held in many cities in North America in the past two months. "Bhopal was not forgotten at the demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle," Singh says, adding that many of the protesters knew a lot about Bhopal.
A case filed in New York a few months ago charges Union Carbide and Warren M Anderson, the chairman of the firm during the 1984 disaster, with violating international law and fundamental human rights of the victims and survivors.
The defendants are liable for fraud and civil contempt for 'their total failure to comply with the lawful orders of the courts of both the United States and India,' it states.
And now comes the news that Anderson, who retired from Union Carbide 12 years ago, has gone into hiding to avoid a summons to appear in a Manhattan federal court as part of civil proceedings against him and the company.
The case is filed by lawyers and social activists with the backing of the likes of Professor Rajgopal.
The New York Times reported that Anderson, who was arrested and briefly detained by the police when he landed in New Delhi on his way to Bhopal a few days after the gas leak had started making Page One news across the world. He is now eluding private detectives hired by the activists.
Kenneth F McCallion, who initiated the civil case, told The Times that many attempts to deliver a summons to Anderson's last known address in Florida have failed and the property appears to be vacant.
Union Carbide will not accept a summons on behalf of Anderson, or to disclose his present location, McCallion says.
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