Bhopal and Vizag- The Legal view point on tragedies.

Shobhan Sachdeva

Aug. 7, 2020

The time has come to leave the trite tales about clear skies and clean waterways as a results of the monetary lockdown activated by the coronavirus pandemic. As environment ministers and state governments make it simpler for businesses to restart, the harmful gas spill at LG Polymers' polystyrene plant in Vizag — executing 11 individuals and presenting 1,100 to the styrene gas — has helped the planet to recollect the indiscretion of review ecological due persistence as an obstacle to monetary action.

Introduction:

The time has come to leave the trite tales about clear skies and clean waterways as a results of the monetary lockdown activated by the coronavirus pandemic. As environment ministers and state governments make it simpler for businesses to restart, the harmful gas spill at LG Polymers' polystyrene plant in Vizag — executing 11 individuals and presenting 1,100 to the styrene gas — has helped the planet to recollect the indiscretion of review ecological due persistence as an obstacle to monetary action.
The Vizag gas releases its causes and therefore the response of the administration and state are shockingly just like the Bhopal gas disaster. This shows that no good lessons had been learnt from the Union Carbide Disaster. The corporation and also the administration still deploy the untruths and non-scientific empty reassurances to underplay the incident and its systematic causes.
LG Polymers had declared that the styrene gas started spilling off around 2:30 AM from a capacity of tank containing 1800 tons of harmful compound. The gas spread through five densly populated towns in Gopalapatnam, executing individuals and cows, including buffaloes, dogs and even winged creatures. The air remained dangerously polluted until in any event at 6:30 AM
Like in Bhopal, there were no warning indications from the factory. The company proclamation guarantees that stagnation and changes in temperature inside the limit tank could have prompted auto polymerisation and caused vaporization.

Any Lessons from Bhopal or not?

The company’s explanation and commissioner’s assurance are questionable. But like with Bhopal, in Vizag too, the company and therefore the state appear to be underestimate the toxicity of whatever it is that was within the air.
Borrowing from the Union Carbide, LG Polymers doctors too have begun pointing fingers at workers for the disaster as they were blaming them. Amongst the officers one senior official had claimed that the “the valves controls from the gas weren’t handled properly and they had burst which caused the leakage. Except if tested at the start, the "misusing" will be deftly sold as a worker mistake.
The Bhopal gas disaster pushed lazy politicians and policymakers. Before 1984, India only had specific legislation relevant to air and water pollution. After the Bhopal gas tragedy, India enacted the Environment Protection Act, 1986 a statue that seeks to deal with the pressing concerns involving sustainable development. This was followed up by the enactment of the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, and the National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995. So, despite the government’s steps within the results of Bhopal, there is still room for a considerable number of measures to be undertaken.

Simplicity of working together

Indian ecological and work security controllers at the Center and states are very much business friendly. As indicated by Ganga Rao, a CITU member who used to be related with the workers association in LG Polymers, the company had a comfortable relationship with state controllers. “The company acquired consent via telephone to restart the manufacturing plant two days back. The industrial facilities monitor and PCB (Pollution Control Board) didn't investigate the plant that has been lying inactive for 40 days," he said. In different similarity with the Bhopal, LG Polymers too had handed over critical operations to untrained casual workers. “There are just 50 lasting laborers while in contract and easygoing specialists number is around 350. At the point when the break had occurred, there were just 15 specialists on location and all were easygoing staff with no involvement with restarting a polymer plant.
Bhopal and Vizag had made painfully clear that the erosion of workers rights and employers obligations could have a fatal implications for workers and surrounding communities

Runaway reaction

In Bhopal, the magnitude of the disaster was a direct result of storing large quantities of a explosive toxin in a densely populated location. LG Polymers guarantees that the wellspring of the spillage is its stockpiling tank, and that delayed non-use had made conditions that prompted the unfortunate hole. The Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989, specify demanding conditions for capacity of synthetic compounds like styrene. Unmistakably, laws without masters are comparable to no laws.

The laws in India which provides protection to the victims of such chemical disaster. Here’s a look at some of these provisions:-
At the time of the Bhopal gas tragedy, The Indian Penal Code (IPC) was the one and only law at that time, which specifies a criminal liability for such incidents, reported PES Legislative. The CBI had initially charged the accused in the case under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)

The charges were later framed under Section 304A, which deals with death due to negligence and imposes a maximum punishment for two years and with a fine charged. The charges were reframed after a 1996 Supreme Court judgement which held that there was no evidence to show that the accused had knowledge that such a gas leak would happen and will kill peoples.

Soon after when the tragedy happened it had killed 2000 peoples, the government had passed a series of laws regulating the environment, specifying safeguards and penalties. Some of these laws are as follows:-
1. Bhopal Gas Leak (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985, which gives powers to the central government to secure the claims arising out of or connected with the Bhopal gas tragedy.
2. The Environment Protection Act, 1986, which gives powers to the central government to undertake measures for improving the environment and set standards and inspect industrial units.
3. The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, which is insurance meant to provide relief to persons affected by accidents that occur while handling hazardous substances.
4. The National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997, under which the National Environment Appellate Authority can hear appeals regarding the restriction of areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
5. National Green Tribunal, 2010, provides for the establishment of a National Green Tribunal for effective and expeditious disposal of causes related to environmental protection and conservation of forests.

Conclusion

The recent Vizag gas leak is said to have been reminder of the Bhopal gas accident. It is a clear example of how casually certain industries treat environmental guidelines. Productions plants such as these are rarely shut, let alone switched off abruptly. The lockdown, however, forced all industries, except those making essentials to shut down. It is not known whether there was a sufficient staff, monitoring key storage parameters and sensors. In its eagerness to catch up with its richer, India should not repeat its mistakes. There is indeed a case for reforming some of the inflexible labour laws that have involuntary consequences, but a correction should not mean the pendulum will be swinging in the other direction.
Due to several weeks of lockdown and the closure of industrial units during the lockdown period, it is possible that some of the operators might not have followed the established SOP. In conclusion whether or not learnt anything from our past is a question that is yet to be answered and it is a question that needs to be answered affirmatively.