Have we really learnt lessons from Bhopal?

The Bhopal disaster, also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy, of 1984, is considered as the world’s worst industrial disaster. It claimed nearly 4,000 lives, wounded several thousands and maimed a generation that followed. It shook the entire industrial world. But, the pertinent question is whether we have really learnt any lessons from Bhopal. 

The answer is a depressing no. The tragedy was virtually a wakeup call especially for India. It is true that several amendments were made to the  existing safety-related legislation, and the judiciary came out with some important rulings to see that such tragedies do not recur and perfect safety systems are put in place in the industrial arena of the country. Unfortunately, the grim reality is that many of these amendments and rulings are still best in paper, but not being complied with or strictly implemented.

It has to be admitted that though India has the best safety standards and safety protocols for industrial safety in the world, very rarely are they visible at the ground level. Industrial accidents continue to occur, and, according to available statistics, between 2007 and 2010, they claimed 3,000 lives in the organised sector alone and several more in the unorganised sector.

This scenario does not augur well for India, which is at present gearing itself up for yet another leap in industrial development, luring massive foreign direct investments (FDIs) in the manufacturing sector. It is time that the country took solid initiatives to ensure that India has the best industrial safety protocols in place and convince the investors from abroad that we are quite serious about them. That is the only way by which the Prime Minister’s much-hyped ‘Make in India’ slogan can gain credibility.

As experts have pointed out, there are some core areas of concern that should be addressed to improve the situation in the country with respect to industrial safety. They are:

  • Commitment of the management of any industry to industrial safety
  •  Process safety management
  • Competency of the safety professionals
  • Community awareness and involvement in issues related to safety
  • Linkage between the industry and the Government
  • Dearth of well-trained safety personnel

Instead of some ad-hoc amendments to existing legislation governing industrial establishments, what we need today is a thorough overhauling of the legal framework and the implementation of the same to produce credible results. It is against this backdrop that Safety Messenger has chosen Industrial safety as the focal theme of this issue.

We hope that the articles and features relating to this will be informative and enlightening to the readers and will provide food for thought to the
policymakers.

M.V. Thomas
Chief Editor.

Author: SubEditor

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