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Skeletons In Our Closet

Skeletons In Our Closet

April 08, 2012

All humans are equal, but some humans are more equal than others.

Chapter 1: The blinding cocktail

The Union Carbide plant of Bhopal leaked a cloud of 42 tons of toxic cocktail into the air of the densely populated city. None of the six safety systems of the plant were functional and the machines were rusted. Union Carbide’s own documents state that the company designed the plant with unproven and untested technology, and cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to save money. As a byproduct of the profit Union Carbide made in India, more than 35,000 people died. More than 5.7 lakh suffered bodily damage, of which many went blind. A plotted holocaust, Bhopal’s Gas Disaster is the world's worst industrial disaster ever!

Ever wondered what happened to Union Carbide next? Our politicians safely ensured that Warren Anderson, the CEO of Union Carbide, in spite of being charged for manslaughter, was safely sent back to the US, from where refused to return to India. Nearly 30 years have passed, and while the victims of the disaster are still denied justice, Union Carbide continues doing business in India as Eveready Industries India Ltd.

Chapter 2: The burning lungs

While most countries have either banned or are in the process are banning asbestos mining, India recently lifted its ban. Asbestos is a Category-One cancer agent. There is no known safety net against it. Once inhaled, the fibres lodge permanently in lung tissue and cannot be removed.

It is estimated that there are more than 6,000 workers affected by asbestosis (an untreatable lung ailment) and another 600 are suffering at the minimum from asbestosis-related lung cancer in India at present. But the subject has attracted very little attention from politicians, industry, labour, public health bodies or the medical profession. Asbestos continues to be the single largest source of occupational cancer in India.

If we have reason to believe that by not mining asbestos, a common Indian is safe from the disease, remember that it is an air borne disease. India is not just a producer; it is also one of the largest consumers of asbestos in the world. Interestingly, Canada banned asbestos use domestically but continues to export it to India where there is no ban on its usage.

Ever wondered why so many buildings come up in India with asbestos roofing that directly exposes those under it to cancer? Amidst all these, our politicians act innocent, and for most people, their ignorance is their bliss.

Chapter 3: Wasted sunsets

The company Monsanto, notorious for producing dubious genetically engineered seeds, has been physically expelled from most European countries. In India it flourishes through a subsidiary, Mahyco. They came up with a Bt (genetically modified) cotton which, despite all the claims by the company, caused widespread disruptions in many parts of the country. This cotton had no seeds, which ensured that over the years our farmers lost their traditional variety of seeds. Once the traditional breed of cotton was extinct, Monsanto dictated their terms and prices on our cotton farmers. It eventually led to over 10,000 farmer suicides in Vidarbha alone. The unofficial and unreported number of farmer suicide in India is in lakhs.

Monsanto, unquestioned, has turned to rice and brinjal. If these are genetically engineered, they will grow only with the special seeds the company produces and the traditional seeds will go extinct. A company with a monopoly on these seeds will have India at its mercy. They can control the prices of Indian food. They can choose how many peasants to sacrifice against a kilogram of rice.

Field testing of Bt Brinjal in India was done in secret. Agriculture ministers in West Bengal and Karnataka claimed that they were ignorant about the critical field trials which were being conducted in their states. While several European countries were banning genetically engineered food, Mahyco received approval for production of Bt Brinjal seeds in India.

Even in America, the home of Monsanto, there are strict regulations that force companies to state clearly that a product is genetically engineered. In India, we are denied even the basic right to know whether we are eating natural brinjal, or brinjal with pesticides injected in them, which will enter our blood stream. Human lives are valuable in America – but negotiable in India.

Chapter 4: The skeletons are in 'our' closet

India continues to be a third world country that is exploited both by internal and external forces. While globalization enabled a few to buy private jets, it has also snatched away the basic life amenities from a major part of Indian population.

Policy makers are corrupt, but this does not explain everything. The Chinese establishment is profoundly corrupt. But when it comes to China versus the world, even the most corrupt Chinese officials cannot be bought! Indian politicians and bureaucrats suffer from a lack of patriotism. A patriotic leader, even one accepting bribes or conducting activity to benefit his own needs, would have never allowed a person like Anderson to leave India. A man with the slightest love for his country and its people will never sell our farmers to a foreign corporation.

Aside from politicians, it is also us who are to blame. The tragedy of India is not poverty or corruption, but a mentality that accepts and even condones them. When a film depicting the horrors of Indian poverty wins Oscars, we protest against foreigners looking only at the negative side of India. But we fold our hands, and keep ourselves away from doing anything about eliminating these evils. We are the ones who wear branded clothes made out of Bt Cotton in our never ending quest of appearing cool. We are the ones who purchase Eveready batteries and allow the industry to flourish. Why can’t we purchase the alternatives available to asbestos and kill its market in India? How can we condemn others while we know that the skeletons are in our closet!

It is us, who pick these leaders who negotiate our lives with the multibillion corporate industries. We allow selling of those drugs in India which are banned in the West. We fail to overthrow governments which allow this to happen. Toxic electronic waste from western countries is regularly dumped in our soil, while we flick channels on our television, from IPL to item numbers.

It is our small and selfish egos that have accumulated and created the divide of inequality between one man and the other. It is us who have chosen not to focus on real issues and instead live the lives of comfortable slaves. It is us who have chosen to just like causes on Facebook and feel good about it. But we forget that all our indifference will, someday, come back to haunt us. Someday, the water we drink may also contain nuclear waste. Someday, the factory beside our bungalows, may explode!

Let's not forget that a country functions only as much as its people. We deserve only as good a politician as ourselves. And when things don't work and we sit and stare, it is us who are to be blamed.

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  • Rhythmdivine!
    24.04.12 10:48 PM
    Thought provoking article Sourav !! Appreciate your effort in summing this up.
  • Just   Right
    Just Right
    15.04.12 09:37 PM
    Yes it is our mentality that is the problem. For everything we look at China. Why not for patriotism? We accept every crap that is heaped on India by the West or the media.
  • Dr_idli
    11.04.12 12:52 AM
    So who volunteers to be the next "Gandhi" and fight injustice ?
  • sandy740
    10.04.12 11:42 PM
    Most of the articles written by you are thought provoking and so is this wonderful piece. The change needs to come from our inner selves. Whether it be the injustice to the victims of Andersons holocaust or the lack of progress in the manufacturing sector, or the lack of roads and rails to the remote areas or the inefficiency in implementing the age old schemes – whatever we talk finally leads to the so called dead end -“change in our attitude”. Without a change in the attitude towards our surroundings, our own people, our country we can never ever dream of a better nation. Words don’t yield until we sow them into actions. So let’s do our part though it might be a tiny drop.
  • indu chhibber
    indu chhibber
    09.04.12 07:09 PM
    Every word you have written is true & the situation is horrifying...kudos to you for having done so much of research on this topic & informing us ....when will this change?
    09.04.12 06:03 PM
    My question to you is, what should we do to stop this happing again and again?

    As you said that most corrupted chinese are patriot when it comes to protecting china against the world.

    As far as I understand, we as people ( Indians ) do not care about our fellow Indians, and that's shame. Until we have this understanding, we as people will never be patriot. This will be our downfall.

  • sandy
    09.04.12 02:46 PM
    very well reserached article. But about Monsanto, you must go see FOOD> INC. They wiped out corn and sopy farmers in US too, by the time the Govt woke up
  • Atheist Indian
    Atheist Indian
    09.04.12 02:20 PM
    I know it is is going to sound cruel, but from an absolutely pragmatic point of view, human life is on an on average, less valuable in a third world country than an industralised nation. Given that we live in a capitalist society, the worth of a human being is a function of how much he or she adds value to the economy of the country.

    While Jessica Lal's murder made a big issue, how many people feel the same outrage when a maid is beaten to death by an overbearing housewife? Even the media chooses not to talk about such 'unpalatable' news.

    It is not an Indian thing, but a universal human nature. Even when we don't admit it, on a subconscious level, we accept it.
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    09.04.12 01:03 PM
    Bribing the politicians is just one side of the story.

    Look at our own corporations. That deserves a post in itself.

    The economy of elections is different now. Unless we try to fix that, we cannot expect much change from politicians.
  • tys
    08.04.12 10:51 PM
    this just got me even more depressed. There seems to be no way out of this, is there? Unless the change come from within each one of us? The decision not to stand for it. No matter what. We been sold out by our politicians and we helped them to do it.
  • mak
    08.04.12 01:00 PM
    Even after 30 years we haven't seen justice. What does it imply? We term ourselves as a largest democratic country but we fail to make justice.

    Whenever a issue comes up, media highlights it, exaggerates it, even goes to an extent of tampering it to gain TRPs? We are busy in our day to day lives. We do not have time to think about these affairs.

    As rightly said by you 'it is us who are to be blamed'.

    Intriguing post.
  • Sushil
    08.04.12 11:46 AM
    First time in my life, I have come across such profound and diligent views put forward so beautifully. Needless to say but views such is these are few and far between and would, yet again, be ignored and, probably, be lost amongst all the glitz and glamour of so called "India Shining". I congratulate the writer for being so self critical and asking questions about ourselves. If only few more of us could do the same!!!!
  • Kinara :)
    Kinara :)
    08.04.12 11:02 AM
    It's so sad to see all this!
    Yet,we continue like anything..
    totally agreed, it's we who need to take the first step..
    Nicely summed up!
    Loved these words, they surely speak a lot :
    All humans are equal, but some humans are more equal than others.
    Thanks for sharing this insightful post:)
  • Kajal
    08.04.12 08:38 AM
    You are so right. If only we stopped putting these skeletons in the closet and change ourselves , the world will be such a nicer place to live in.

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