Union Carbide India Limited
Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) was a chemical company established in 1934, eventually expanding to employ 9,000 people working at 14 plants in five divisions. UCIL was 50.9% owned by Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and 49.1% by Indian investors including the Government of India and government-controlled banks. UCIL produced batteries, carbon products, welding equipment, plastics, industrial chemicals, pesticides, and marine products.
In 1970 UCIL built a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, which gained worldwide attention as a result of the Bhopal disaster. On December 3, 1984, a release of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas immediately killed about three thousand people and led to the death of more than fifteen thousand in subsequent weeks and months. The death rate is currently about 2 or 3 people per week. At the time of the disaster, UCIL was ranked twenty-first in size among companies operating in India. It had revenues of Rs 2 billion (then equivalent to US$170 million).
Impact of the Bhopal Disaster
In February 1989, the Supreme Court of India directed UCC and UCIL to pay $470 million to settle all claims arising from the tragedy. The government, UCC and UCIL agreed with the ruling, and the two companies paid the settlement on 24 February.
UCIL maintained a low profile in the post-Bhopal period. The chairman, Keshub Mahindra, and the Bhopal factory manager, J.Mukund, moved on to new positions. Most of the Bhopal plant managers left the company after the plant closed. UCIL closed the pesticide plant and reduced the Research and Development Center in Bhopal to a skeleton staff.
Following the tragedy, the Government of India took control of the property. In 1994, Union Carbide sold its shares in UCIL to McLeod Russell. UCIL was subsequently renamed Eveready Industries India Ltd. (EIIL). As part of this transaction, EIIL became the property leaser and assumed responsibility for the site environmental cleanup.
On 14 January 1987, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a decision by the U.S. District Court to send the legal case against UCC to India. It ruled UCIL was a separate and independent legal entity managed and staffed by Indian citizens.
In June 2010, seven former employees of UCIL, all Indian nationals and many in their 70s, were convicted of causing death by negligence and each sentenced to two years imprisonment and fined Rs.1 lakh (US$2,124). All were released on bail shortly after the verdict. The names of those convicted are: Keshub Mahindra, former non-executive chairman of Union Carbide India Limited; V.P. Gokhale, managing director; Kishore Kamdar, vice-president; J. Mukund, works manager; S.P. Chowdhury, production manager; K.V. Shetty, plant superintendent; and S.I. Qureshi, production assistant.
- International Campaign For Justice For The Victims Of The Bhopal Disaster
- CSIR Report on Bhopal Disaster, December 1985.