The cloud over Bhopal.
Mother Teresa, touring the site of the mass gassing in Bhopal, India, urged the survivors to forgive those responsible for the disaster. After a few hours's detention, authorities there released Union Carbide chair Warren M. Anderson, who then offered to build an orphanage with company funds and reassured worried investors that his firm could weather demands on its capital from Indian claimants. Lawyers are scurrying around two continents trying to determine the best venue for litigation. They and the doctors, corporate finance officers, politicians and moralists will be busy for years to come in the aftermath of the worst industrial accident in history.
The hundreds of thousands who live in the shantytowns downwind of the Union Carbide plant are already slipping from public view. An undifferentiated crowd of victims for a few days, they were quickly overlooked when the issues of blame and liability, medical procedure and technological safety, were engaged. But their plight is the one issue that must not be forgotten. It is not only their suffering that characterized the tragedy but their powerlessness in the face of corporate, bureaucratic and national decisions of awful moment to their lives. The gas cloud that covered the Bhopal slums may have been caused by technical failure or human error, but in a larger sense it was produced by inaccessible economic and political institutions that place human values below financial and administrative considerations.
In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, Bishop Desmond Tutu asked the West to show as much concern for the million of starving and dispossessed Africans as it does for one Polish priest. The same attention should be given the people of Bhopal and the powerless all over the world, who are downwind of bigger disasters to come.