This paper is a response to the call for individual reaction on ethics based topic. Ethics relates to values of human behavior as to whether they are correct or not. The acceptance of an act will in most cases depend on the assessor’s emotions as a result of the particular act though ethics is about standards and morals. With respect to the topic “BHOPAL-union carbide”, this paper is going to discuss the events of the incident in relation to ethical principles and a reaction to the topic of the paper. The paper will talk about what actually transpired in the incident, ethical principles in relation to the incident as well as a personal opinion on the subject matter.
Bhopal-Union Carbide-the Incident
The incident occurred in December 1984. It involved an America pesticide manufacturing company called “union carbide” that operated in the outskirts of the city of Bhopal in India. According to records of the British government broadcaster, BBC, the incident occurred early in the morning. The pesticide plant that was and is still situated about 5 kilometers from the city had a leak in its systems. Being a chemical industry, the leaks as a chemist would comprehend emitted poisonous gases into the atmosphere. According to the explanation given then by the firm’s then managing director, the poisonous gas which was identified as methyl isocyanate got its way out through a damaged valve.
This was due to excess pressure experienced in an underground storage facility. The effect was tremendously felt in the then poverty stricken region that in addition had poor transport and communication systems. The extent of the leak was a cloud like coverage of the regions atmosphere. Apart from the immediate chemical effects, the victims were even unable to see due to the fog that the gas had formed in the environment.
The leak caused the death of about 3000 people and medical attention was required to about 50000 people in the immediate days following the incident. It is also estimated that about 20000 people have since died from complications related to the gas’s infection. Compensation was made by the firm to the Indian government at that time though calls were later made for more compensation in the year 2004. The Indian government also called for legal actions against a former top officer of the union carbide. Accusations were also made against the firm over breach of international law and violation of human rights.
The leak was a result of large amount of water that got into the chemical storage tank causing a dangerous reaction. The incident was first noticed at 5 pm and reported to the supervisor who took no action. A large amount of the gas, estimated at 40 tones escaped into the environment and was spread by wind aiding diffusion. The long term side effects on the survivors were infections related to the eye and the lung. Most of the victims that survived suffered from complications which were related to the chest while others had their mental adversely affected. The effect also increased child mortality in the region to about 200 percent compared to the average child mortality rate globally. The incident was as a result of many mistakes ranging from legal errors, mistakes in technology, disorganization and human incompetence.
Bhopal-Union Carbide-the Class Discussion
The incident occurred in December 1984 killing more than four thousand people and injuring more than five hundred thousand. The incident was a result of both the firm being negligent as well as the employees. The firm had no cooling unit at the time, had outdated machines, leaks had been common, presence of illiterate employees, malfunctioning valves among others. Responsibility was the firm’s personnel both in the USA and those in India (class discussion).
Ethical and governance principals can be classified under the following categories, “legal compliance and public disclosure, effective governance, strong financial oversight and responsible fund raising” (Deloitte 5). These principles, may be apart from the last one are applicable to corporate bodies like the then union-carbide (Deloitte 5). Ethics in its nature is about the law of morality and the judgment of human behavior.
A cooperate body is therefore in its mandate liable to comply with legal requirements and a concrete governance together with proper financial check. Public disclosure is also a necessity in ethics. The public should be aware of possibilities that could arise from the existence of an institution around them. The awareness can either be positive to give benefits to the entity or negative to give a warning of possible accidents that could arise from the existence of the entity. A greater responsibility could be laid on a firm to comply with laws, educate the public and ensure that their firms are well run (Deloitte 5).
The Bhopal incident was a disaster. The international law on human rights puts responsibility over acts of omissions on people who are in a position to prevent a violation of human rights. Chemicals are categorically treated as dangerous substances and a threat to human lives if at all not handled with discrete care. A firm producing or even just handling chemicals, especially those chemicals identified to be toxic, is by any standard of law and any local provision required to ensure human safety.
Based on the above illustration of what actually happened and additional resources, I agree with what was discussed in class in terms of Bhopal incident. The number of casualties is averagely true as well as description of the event. The factors that led to the disaster were exhaustively discussed together with the responsible personalities in the company both in India and in the USA.
A look of what actually happened however draws intense emotion that one could imagine in class. The professional class presentation brings an indifferent emotion just like any other academic topic like financial management in a firm. A close look at the events shows a lack of competence in the firm. A toxic chemical leaks, a supervisor is informed and no action is taken until 40 tons of gas (not even a solid) is leaked. That magnitude is even too much to be considered a leak. There was extreme negligence on the part of the company’s administration both in Bhopal and its headquarters in the USA. The firm lacked the morality to take measures to preserve the lives of its workers and the people living in its environs. The lack of response to stop the spill was also unacceptable. A severe action, in my opinion, should have been taken against the firm to arrest its managers and even completely stop its operations in the country.
The firm also failed in its financial oversight. Most of the highlighted causes of the disaster were a result of inadequate financial planning. The unattended machines and the employment of unskilled labor was a short sighted financial step that resulted to loss of lives (undefined cost), loss of the spilled chemical and the cost of compensation among others. The class discussion also ought to have enlisted a highlight of the financial administration of the firm at that moment to streamline the appropriation of incompetence of the firm’s management at that time.
It could be possible that the departmental leaders like those in operation, maintenance and safety had raised alarm to no avail due to funding. It is also in my opinion that international standards ought to have been set to prevent negligence by investors from developed countries at the expense of poor people in developing countries. The Indian government also had the responsibility to monitor the operations of the union carbide firm.
The Acquisition of Union Carbide
The acquisition of the union carbide by another company, “Dow chemical company”, also brings up an extra school of thought into the responsibility owed to the people of Bhopal. The Dow Company may be under no legal obligation to make further financial advances to the people of Bhopal. Many legal arguments can be brought on table including the fact that union carbide made compensation to the government of India. The acceptance of the compensation by the Indian government sealed the compensation arrangement and what could have remained on the former owner was advancement out of good will.
The acquisition of the site by the Indian government also took the responsibility of that site from union carbide to the hands of the government. The responsibility of cleaning the mess did not even apply to the union carbide firm. Dow Company therefore came into scene when all legal responsibilities had been met and what they could offer the people of Bhopal is a good will charity donation. On ethical basis, this would be a good social move. The Indian government should then be blamed for accepting a low amount of compensation if at all it was and for acquiring the site before the union carbide could be put to the cleaning task
This was a responsive paper to a class discussion in regard to ethical principles. I agreed with the class presentation which was satisfactory. There was gross breach of ethical values in the circumstance that led to the Bhopal disaster. A high level of incompetence and negligence could be identified on the firm’s administration. The assignment to react to class discussion is in my opinion a constructive measure on the part of the tutor. It has provided an opportunity to the students to look deeper into the subjects, a move that has enhanced the understanding of the topics discussed in class.
Deloitte. Private and Not for Profit Organizations. Deloitte, 2011. Web.