Monday, June 28, 2010

The Economist on Bhopal and BP

A recent article in the Economist ( suggested:

"Opposition parties and human-rights activists, however, argue that the law could allow foreign firms to shirk paying proper compensation to the victims of a future Bhopal."

Sentiments like this reek of archaic nationalism. Is BP (for example) a British (again, for example) company because it has the word "British" in the name? Because the Board of Directors are exclusively British, or generally so? Because most shareholders are British? Because British passport holders hold a majority of the stock? Because most employees are British? Because most of the value chain is located in Britain? Because the consumers are British? Because it was founded in Britain? Because the mission statement has, "Ok, chaps, first thing to note is that ours is a British company, all right?" in it?

Protestors might do well to keep in mind that a) Companies are non-nationalistic entities; b) the judiciary ought to follow the law and ignore the cries of young men on the street, howsoever passionate or lynch-mob-like; and c) the government of India can introduce legislation - it cannot guarantee a conviction or the extent of punishment.

Plus, the article itself could have been better written. Consider the study which declared that "groundwater contained levels of toxic chemicals 40 times higher than the national limit. " That's not saying much, as it talks about a _limit_. Would have been more relevant to compare with actual levels in urban and rural areas.

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