An Ethical Analysis

An Ethical Analysis:
The Bhopal Gas Tragedy

A Case Study Presented to the
School of Media Studies
Mapúa University

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements of the Course
Laws and Ethics for Multimedia Practitioners (MAS 70)

By:
Alejo, Cristopher Jeorge
Asturias, Francis Darwin
Fernandez, Ernesto Jr.
Pangilinan, Marie Carla Aleijn C.
Serrano, Roye Julian
Woo, Kyra Ysabel

Acknowledgement

We would like to express our gratitude to Prof. John Xavier Chavez for imparting his knowledge and expertise in the course Laws and Ethics for Multimedia Practitioners to us. Without it, we would have not been able to complete this paper.
We would also like to acknowledge the efforts of each of the member in this group. Through collaborative effort, the completion of this paper was possible.

Table of Contents
I. Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….4
II. Ethical Analysis …………………………………………………………………………………………………………7
Utilitarianism ………………………………………………………………………………………………………7
Rights ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..11
Kantian Approach …………………………………………………………………………………………….15
Justice and Fairness ……………………………………………………………………………………………16
Ethics of Care …………………………………………………………………………………………………….17
Virtue Ethics……………………………………………………………………………18
III. Legal Aspects …………………………………………………………………………………………………………19
Pending Laws …………………………………………………………………………………………………….19
Existing Laws …………………………………………………………………………………………………….21
Authorities/Agencies Involved …………………………………………………………………………….25
IV. Conclusion ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..26
Conclusion …………………………………………………………………………………………………………26
Recommendations ………………………………………………………………………………………………26
Bibliography ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

I. Introduction
The Bhopal gas tragedy is considered to be the world’s worst industrial disaster. It was an accident involving Union Carbide India Limited, a chemical company running a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. The company used to produce a pesticide called Sevin. One of the main chemicals used to formulate this pesticide is methyl isocyanate (MIC) which is why Union Carbide India Limited had large amounts of this chemical stored in their plant. The chemical was stored in an underground storage in the facility. On the night of December 2, 1984, a maintenance operation of washing the pipelines was held at around 9:30 pm. A few hours later, the workers spotted a leak in one of the pipes. Considering that it looked like a normal leak, they paid little attention to it. Workers tried to trace the origin of the leak but as the hours passed, the leak continued to worsen. When midnight hit, the pressure in the MIC tank rose to an alarming level and one tank called E610 which contained 42 tons of MIC had began to leak continuously. Due to this, the temperature inside the tank reached a 200-degree Celsius level which caused the tanks and the concrete surrounding it to crack. A few minutes later, the valve of the tank gave away and at least 30 tons of MIC and other poisonous gases leaked into the atmosphere. As soon as the workers realized that this was going to end up in a massive disaster, they immediately attempted to activate the three safety systems available in the plant. However, many circumstances hindered each of the safety systems from being activated, so there was no stopping the leak. Due to these failed attempts, they reverted to spraying the leak with water, but the water spray could only reach 100 ft., while the leak was at 120 ft. After this, the workers had nothing left to do to stop the leak, as it was impossible already given the severity of the leak. The premises of the UCIL was surrounded by slum areas where thousands of poor people lived. They were woken up by the suffocating gas at midnight, and at this point there were no alarms that notified people about the incident. It was only around 2:30 am that a public siren was turned on but since it wasn’t high enough to reach the whole town surrounding the plant, not everyone was warned enough. It wasn’t long until the town was covered in the poisonous gas. It was estimated that around 600,000 people were exposed to the harmful chemicals on that night of December 2. These people experienced burning of eyes and throat, nausea and for many, death. There were many estimations as to how many people died from the incident, but over the years, it was ruled that the deaths reached a number of 30,000. However, the effects didn’t stop there. Many of the people who were exposed to the gas that night gave birth to children with either physical or mental disabilities. Through the years, the survivors fought to have the town cleaned up, but it was claimed that rehabilitation only slowed down when Dow Chemicals took over UCIL. It is claimed that up to this day, the town’s water and the town itself is still contaminated.

II. Ethical Analysis
III. Bhopal Gas Tragedy
Societal Benefits Societal Costs
The plant provided jobs for the residents of Bhopal and possibly other neighboring communities. Health hazards to all the people living near the plant.
Thousands of people died
Survivors suffered injuries; some are minor, some are permanently disabling injuries
Children that were born after the disaster suffered either physical or mental disabilities
Lack of information about MIC led to the treatment to the patients impossible.
Excess production and storage of MIC in the other tanks beyond recommended levels can lead to another occurrence of the leak
Contamination around the plant’s surrounding area. And if proven contaminated, it may result to health hazards to another group of people.
Loss of livelihood for the residents; especially if their source of income is livestock wherein apart from all the people dead, there were also animals that died during the disaster
The aftermath of the disaster makes Bhopal unsafe to live in for residents
People lost their homes because they are forced to evacuate the city

The disaster that happened in Bhopal hardly has any benefits to the society. If there is any, it’s only the jobs it provided for the Bhopal residents and possibly the expansion of India’s economy because of the revenue it produces. Union Carbide Corporation had cut costs in their plant in Bhopal, at around 1.5 million USD, making the safety measures substandard. The safety features were not working, crucial safety equipment were not present, and their gauges were not recalibrated routinely concluding that this disaster happened is also due to the negligence of Union Carbide Corporation. What happened in Bhopal had more societal costs than societal benefits so the Bhopal Gas Tragedy by using the Universal Ethical Principle of Utilitarianism is morally unacceptable.

II.II Rights
Rights are legal, social or ethical principles of freedom that are entitled to a person. There are two different categories that go under this, legal rights and moral rights. Legal rights are limited to a particular jurisdiction whilst moral rights are universal ethical principles that is applied to all humans.
Rights of Union Carbide
Union Carbide is a corporation that has the right to do business with whomever they want, the corporation also has the right to earn money from what business they establish.
Rights of Dow Chemical
Just like Union Carbide, Dow Chemical has the right to do business and earn money from what they do. In this case, they were the supplier of chemicals for Union Carbide.
Rights of the Government
The government has the right to oversee a company that is situated in their area of responsibility. Among their rights is to collect the corresponding taxes that the company should pay. In case of violations, the government has the right to impose sanctions or if the situation demands, to foreclose the business.

Rights of Bhopal Survivors
The right to life is an international law that everyone is entitled to, India agreed to this law in 1979 which states that
“Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”
Agreeing to this law means that they need to regulate the behavior of corporations to a degree that ensures protection of lives they might threaten. In this case, we can clearly see that they violated the rights to health and a safe environment. They constructed a chemical factory that is populated by around 1 million people, which can harm and threaten the lives of the residents.
Another international right that has been violated is the right to highest attainable standard of health. Article 12(2)(b) of the ICESCR requires India to look after “the improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene.” By building a chemical factory near a populated area means that exposure to harmful substances such as radiation and harmful chemicals violates this law.
Lastly, the right to a safe environment has also been violated. Destruction of the environment at any scale threatens to infringe directly and indirectly upon every basic human right that exists.
In conclusion, all the parties involved have their own rights. However, the disaster that happened in Bhopal violated a lot of human rights law and standards even before the gas leak happened. The Union Carbide, Dow Chemical and the government of India violated these rights by refusing to provide compensation to the victims, refusing to clean up, denying the victims of medical care and generally ignoring the thousands of victims involved in the incident. Therefore, the actions of Union Carbide, Dow Chemical and the government of India is immoral.

II.III Kantian Approach
The Kantian approach is an ethical theory by Immanuel Kant that focuses on the duty, the duty of being a benevolent human being, of the one who is being morally questioned. It gives two categorical imperatives to be followed by the actor. If both imperatives are done correctly, then that action is morally or ethically correct and the duty of the one who did the action has been fulfilled. Otherwise, it is not. The two categorical imperatives are as follows:
1. “Act in such a way that your actions can be considered a universal law”
The imperative is similar to the Golden rule, stating that if the action about to be done by the actor shouldn’t be done by anyone, then it shouldn’t be done by the actor as well, for it is not a universal law. If the actor’s actions is accepted by everyone, then he or she has correctly followed the imperative
2. “Do not treat a person as means but always an end”
The second imperative states that when treating a person involved in the action done by the actor, they must literally be treated as a human being and not as an object or machine that has no emotions just to fulfill tasks and acquire its final outputs without any compensation afterwards.
The imperatives are now to be applied with the tragedy that is the Bhopal Gas Leak to see if what they did during the leak was moral or immoral according to Immanuel Kant if they fulfilled their duty of beneficence and magnanimity to their employees and the local community
First Categorical Imperative: NO
Reason: By following the imperative, the company leaders should have focused their concerns and precautions on the care and safety of their workers and the local community during the leak due to their equal importance to the company itself. As well as having the persistence to stop the leak. They did not perform the imperative by their inability to stop the leak and their selfish concern for their own safety rather than the safety of their workers and the local community that is the city of Bhopal.
Second Categorical Imperative: NO
Reason: A company like UCIL should owe its loyalty and responsibility to its employees and the local community due to their dependence on the company for their safety. They did not treat their employees with the correct amount of respect and care even before the gas leak, as well the safety of the city.

III.IV Justice and Fairness
Distributive Justice
According to The Atlantic, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy is the worst industrial disaster, with a claimed death toll of 15,000.
The Union Carbide India Limited faced charges through subsequent laws in India, while the victims received compensation, although delayed due to hearings and legal matters.
The company, however, had many falters concerning safety protocols and budget cuts that were suggested to have caused the tragedy. Every possibility was taken into account in the hearings.
The punishment faced by the accused, were held to a maximum – based on Indian law. The victims and its representing groups shared their sentiments on the lack of punishment, however, this was compensated through an agreed upon financial assistance.

Retributive Justice
Retributive justice is a system of criminal justice based on the punishment of offenders rather than on rehabilitation.
Enforcing the criminal liability of corporations raises problematic questions. The recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Assistant Commissioner v. Velliappa Textiles reflects this difficulty.
Judges found that the sentence was incapable of being executed since a company could not be imprisoned. Current trends in the law permitted a company to be prosecuted for the acts done by its officers just as an individual would.
On December 3, 1984, 5 junior employees of UCIL arrested. On December 6, 1984, the case was handed over to the CBI. On December 7, 1984, Warren Anderson (Accused no.1 and Chairman of UCC (Accused no.10), Keshub Mahindra Accused no.2 and Chairman of UCIL (Accused No.12) V.P.Gokhale (Accused no.3 and Vice President of UCIL) were arrested and released on bail on the same day. Warren Anderson was escorted out to Delhi on the Chief Minister’s special plane.
The criminal cases arising out of the Bhopal gas leak disaster have been disappointing in their outcome for not just the prosecution but more importantly the victims of the gas leak disaster.
? The main executives of the corporations involved managed early release on bail.
? In 1989, an unjust settlement foreclosed not only civil remedies but ended the criminal cases as well.
? For an incident, that has resulted in the deaths of nearly 20,000 persons and injuries to over 5,50,000 we do not have yet any conviction.
? Also, there appears to be no move to strengthen the legal regime concerning criminal liability of corporations.
On March 29, 1985, Parliament enacted the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act 1985 whereby Union of India would be the sole plaintiff in a suit against the UCC and other defendants for compensation arising out of the disaster. However, this legislation was meant to deal with only the proceedings to enforce the civil liability of UCC and UCIL.
In 1991, the local Bhopal authorities charged Anderson, who had retired in 1986, with manslaughter, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. He was declared a fugitive from justice by the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal on 1 February 1992 for failing to appear at the court hearings in a culpable homicide case in which he was named the chief defendant.
In June 2010, seven former employees of UCIL, all Indian nationals and many in their 70s, were convicted of causing death by negligence: Keshub Mahindra, former non-executive chairman of Union Carbide India Limited; V. P. Gokhale, managing director; Kishore Kamdar, vice-president; J. Mukund, works manager; S. P. Chowdhury, production manager; K. V. Shetty, plant superintendent; and S. I. Qureshi, production assistant. They were each sentenced to two years imprisonment and fined Rs.100,000 (US$2,124). All were released on bail shortly after the verdict.

Compensatory Justice
On April 17, 1985, Federal District court judge John F. Keenan (overseeing one lawsuit) suggested that “‘fundamental human decency’ required Union Carbide to provide between $5 million and $10 million to immediately help the injured” and suggested the money could be quickly distributed through the International Red Cross.
UCC, on the notion that doing so did not constitute an admission of liability and the figure could be credited toward any future settlement or judgement, offered a $5 million relief fund two days later. The Indian government turned down the offer.
In March 1986 UCC proposed a settlement figure, endorsed by plaintiffs’ U.S. attorneys, of $350 million that would, according to the company, “generate a fund for Bhopal victims of between $500–600 million over 20 years”.
In May 1986, litigation was transferred from the United States to Indian courts by a U.S. District Court ruling. The Government of India refused the offer from Union Carbide and claimed US$3.3 billion.
Eventually, in an out-of-court settlement reached in February 1989, Union Carbide agreed to pay US$470 million for damages caused in the Bhopal disaster. The amount was immediately paid.
Throughout 1990, the Indian Supreme Court heard appeals against the settlement. In October 1991, the Supreme Court upheld the original $470 million, dismissing any other outstanding petitions that challenged the original decision. The Court ordered the Indian government “to purchase, out of settlement fund, a group medical insurance policy to cover 100,000 persons who may later develop symptoms” and cover any shortfall in the settlement fund. It also requested UCC and its subsidiary UCIL “voluntarily” fund a hospital in Bhopal, at an estimated $17 million, to specifically treat victims of the Bhopal disaster. The company agreed to this.
In 2004, the Indian Supreme Court ordered the Indian government to release any remaining settlement funds to victims. And in September 2006, the Welfare Commission for Bhopal Gas Victims announced that all original compensation claims and revised petitions had been “cleared”.

III.V Ethics of Care
The ethics of care mainly shows the commitment to exercise special care toward valuable or close relationships. It is an ethic grounded in voice and relationships, with the importance of everyone having a voice, being listened to carefully, and heard with respect. It directs our attention to the need of responsiveness in relationships and to the costs of losing connection with oneself or with others.
It is true that every human being is not perfect, and one must learn from their mistakes. But, in sometimes, one mistake is enough for you to realize that you were wrong. As they say, “Once is enough, twice is too much, and thrice is a poison that can kill.”
Union Carbide is the sole reason why numerous innocent people living near their plant have died meaningless deaths. The tragedy is an immense part of a tragic history. Even today, the occurrence still haunts the people in the country of India.
In relation to a moral theory, which is the ethics of care, the people under Union Carbide seemed to have not shown concern or care towards the people affected by the gas leak. The hospitals may have aided the wounded, but it wasn’t enough to save all lives. Some managed to escape from the area to the city but others were too weak to leave their homes. Children have lost their lives, thinking they would’ve been enjoying their childhood and started achieving their dreams by the near future.
The company may have found the solution to the problem, but they wouldn’t ever be able to retrieve the pure souls that have perished.

II.VI Virtue Ethics
Rather than evaluating the act of a party involved in a situation where morality is in question, virtue ethics assesses its character. This ethical principle insists that one should live a life in the middle, where it is not lacking nor exceeding. Anything lacking, or exceeding is considered a vice.
In the case of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, there are mainly three parties involved; the company named Union Carbide India Limited, the local government and the victims. In an attempt to evaluate the case using the principles of virtue ethics, we will dissect into each party and identify the virtues or vices they have prior to the incident.
First is the company, UCIL. In the many investigations done about the incident, among the major faults that were found were poor facility and safety systems, and undertrained workers. Investigations indicate that prior to the incident, Union Carbide were cutting down on costs in major divisions of the company including manpower and facility. Union Carbide was being parsimonious to the point where safety in the facility was being compromised. This led to several small-scale incidents inside the factory that happened before the gas tragedy, one of which involved the death of a worker. Another vice exhibited by Union Carbide was negligence. Their workers were poorly trained, and their facilities rarely had its maintenance. Due to the frequent minor incidents, the employees themselves pushed for a major inspection and fixing of most of the facilities, but they were denied. Moreover, despite the fact that their chemical plant was situated in the middle of a residential area, they never informed the residents about safety precautions and dangers that the chemicals they are dealing with in the factory can bring in case of incidents.
The next party involved is the government. Their mindlessness regarding the issue and the Union Carbide itself has also contributed to the factors leading to the tragedy. For starters, a huge chemical plant is sitting in the middle of a densely populated area and yet, there were no actions done regarding this, not even providing the residents with emergency drills at the very least. The deteriorating facility of Union Carbide has also managed to go unnoticed by the local government when they should’ve done frequent inspections in facilities like this to ensure that it is still within the safety standards set by the law.
Lastly, the victims; the fact that most of the residents around the Union Carbide plant were informal settlers were a sign of ignorance in the part of the victims. When Union Carbide’s plant was first built, there were no residents around the proximity. However, as the years passed, informal settlers started growing due to opportunities of work brought about by the company.

INVOLVED PARTIES VICES
Union Carbide • Parsimoniousness
• Negligence
• Greed
Government • Mindlessness
Victims • Ignorance

IV. Legal Aspects
TIMELINE OF LEGAL CASES:
• December 1984: Days after gas leak first petitions filed in US federal courts on behalf of victims.
• March 1985: Indian Parliament passes Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act authorizing government to solely represent Indian plaintiffs in Indian and elsewhere in connection with tragedy. Union of India joins petition along with victims against Union Carbide in April.
• June 1985: Individual petitions joined and listed before Justice John Keenan of Southern District Court of New York.
• May 1986: Justice Keenan dismisses petition and orders Union Carbide to submit to jurisdiction of Indian courts.
• March 1989: India’s Supreme Court (SC) directs UCC and government to settle the case of compensation at US$ 470 million after hearing appeals from the High Court ordering interim compensation of Indian 250 million rupees. Settlement terminates all civil and criminal proceedings. Settlement is silent on the issue of environmental damages.
• March 1991: India’s Supreme Court hearing a review petition on the 1989 settlement refuses to reopen the issue of compensation but reinstates criminal proceedings set aside by 1989 judgment. Government of India asked to make good any deficiency in settlement fund if needed. Court recognizing potential long term health hazards of gas leak orders establishment of a specialized hospital funded by Union Carbide and its affiliates.
• November 2001: US Federal Court of Appeals directs Justice Keenan to try cases for recovery environmental damage unrelated to Bhopal gas disaster. Also orders Judge Keenan to hear additional environmental claims against Union Carbide and its former CEO William Anderson.
• April 2007: A divisional bench of India’s Supreme Court once again rejects appeals asking for reopening the debate over adequacy of settlement fund.

LIST OF OFFENSES PRIOR TO THE TRAGEDY
? In 1975, UCC decided to ‘integrate backwards” and manufacture ingredients of Sevin at the Bhopal plant. Although the then zonal regulations prohibited locating polluting activity in the vicinity of 2 kilometers from the railway station, UCC was able to persuade the authorities to grant it the necessary clearances.
? On December 25, 1981, a leak of Phosgene gas took place at the UCIL plant killing one worker. This was followed by another leak on January 9, 1982, when 25 workers were hospitalized.
? Instead of strengthening the safety measures, UCIL in September 1982, delinked the alarm from the siren warning system so that only their employees would be alerted over minor leaks without “unnecessarily” causing “undue panic” among neighbourhood residents.
? On October 5, 1982, there was another leak from the plant which resulted in hospitalization of hundreds of nearby residents.
? The criminal conduct of UCC and UCIL which placed an entire population at risk despite full knowledge of the total lack of safety at the UCIL plant was evident from a series of conscious decisions taken by both managements between 1983 and 1984, some of which are listed below:
o The safety manuals were re-written to permit switching off the refrigeration unit and shutting down the vent gas scrubber when the plant was not in operation.
o The staffing at the MIC unit was reduced from 12 to 6
o Thus, at the time of the disaster on the night of December 2-3, 1984
? The refrigeration unit installed to cool MIC and prevent chemical reactions had been shut for 3 months
? The vent gas scrubber had been shut off for maintenance
? The flare tower had been shut off
? There were no effective alarm systems in place
? The water sprayers were incapable of reaching the flare towers
? The temperature and pressure gauges were malfunctioning
? Tank number 610 for storing MIC was filled above recommended capacity
? The stand by tank for use in case of excess was already having MIC
? A suo-motu FIR was recorded by the SHO at P.S. Hanumanganj on December 3, 1984 against UCC, UCIL and its executives and employees under s.304 A IPC. The FIR noted that:
o 3828 died on the day of the disaster (the unofficial toll is feared to be much higher by 2003 over 15,000 death claims have been processed)
o Over 30,000 were injured on the fateful day (a figure that now stands at 5.5 lakhs)
o 2,544 animals were killed

V. Conclusion

IV.I Conclusion
Upon looking at the Bhopal Case Tragedy in the different lenses of the ethical principles in business, we’ve come to conclude that the actions done prior to the incident that contributed in its worsening, and the actions done after are immoral.
All the details revealed in the investigations about the case point to one major factor that sparked the tragedy: the negligence of Union Carbide India Limited. For starters, their facilities were poorly maintained. Given the fact that they are a company handling such dangerous chemicals, it should have been a priority to see to it that their facilities are well maintained, and their workers’ performances of their work are thoroughly and strictly supervised. Furthermore, they have completely ignored multiple minor incidents inside the plant that happened prior to the great tragedy; one of which took the life of one of their workers. This incident alone should have been seen as a warning by the company; yet, they did not do any action about it nor investigated the primary cause of these incidents. Third, is the mere fact that such a hazardous facility is situated in a heavily populated residential area is very wrong. This is a factor in which the government can be held accountable. Lastly, the safety measures of UCIL are all defective and their workers were not ready to handle such a situation. This goes to show their negligence of all their responsibilities as a company who handles dangerous chemicals.
The results of this incident only goes to show how important it is for companies to abide by the ethical standards that the nature of their business demands; or else, it could lead to serious tragedies just like what happened in Bhopal. This tragedy should serve both as a lesson and as a reminder to companies to assess their responsibilities given the nature of their operations. They must see to it that their prime priority is the well-being of not only their employees but the people around their facility as well.

IV.II Recommendations
Such an incident like the Bhopal Gas Tragedy should never happen again. To ensure this, the group recommends the following based on the assessment of the tragedy and the analysis done in this paper:
– Facilities that handle dangerous materials should be situated in an area where there are no residential areas in the proximity.
– All facilities and equipment should be properly cleaned and subject to proper maintenance schedules.
– Employees should be properly trained and supervised.
– The public should be informed of the dangers of the chemicals that the facility is handling. There should be proper signages around the property telling people to keep out. All medical records of the symptoms and treatments when exposed to the plant’s chemical should be made public.
– The companies must have tested and reliable safety systems. In times of disaster, the safety systems should work, and employees should know what to do. During leak accidents, the plant must stop it from spreading as fast as possible. When a leak is present, and the source has been immediately identified, all employees must be evacuated except for those who will fix the leak with the correct equipment.
– If leak is unable to be stopped, an alarm must always installed and activated at all of the nearest communities if the leak has not been stopped in a short span of time

x

Hi!
I'm Larry!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out