Thursday, June 24, 2010

Indian Corporate, Bhopal Tragedy and Liberals

Praful Bidwai writes:

  • Why has every single Indian corporate organisation, including chambers of commerce that routinely wax eloquent on all types of issues, kept silent on the atrocious judgement in the Bhopal case? How can corporate CEOs not be disturbed, even alarmed, by a verdict that treats the world’s second-greatest industrial disaster that claimed 15,000-plus lives and injured over 200,000 as a mere traffic accident? What does this say about the moral and political character of Indian business and its disdain for social welfare?

  • This raises larger issues. Any civilised society based on the rule of law must severely punish corporate malfeasance, negligence and crime. This is essential if corporations are not to indulge in unsafe practices that harm the public and be deterred from using money power to evade justice. Even healthy capitalism needs the rule of law and tough environmental and occupational safety regulations. Crucial too is a developed law of torts. This does not exist in India.

Govt shouldn't hound independent directors'

  • Parekh said although the Tata group had, on several occasions, offered to clean up the place and further develop it for community use, they were not given permission because the issue is too political. "I think we are unable to take decision when crisis happens," he added. He believes that the country should take a more objective and practical view of the whole situation, and not go after the wrong people. "There have been a few cases which are not giving us stature. If India is now wanting to join the global league, we should have some kind of maturity in handling such cases," Parekh said.

Give us a break, Mr Parekh

  • Mr Mahindra was the non-executive chairman of Union Carbide India and so couldn’t really be held responsible since he had no day-to-day dealings with the company.

  • If he was held responsible as a director, surely the same should have applied to various government nominees on the company’s board.

  • If you hound independent directors, people will never want to become independent directors; you may even find it difficult to get a CEO or a factory manager for chemical companies manufacturing hazardous materials... “The CEO of UCIL at the time of the accident was less than one year old in the company. When the site was selected, when the plant was put up there, when the designs were made, when the start-up trials happened, he had nothing to do with it... But the CEO has been indicted.”

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