Panel discussions on TV channels turn out to be heat-and-light shows , ‘full of sound and fury signifying nothing’. The TimesNow show on Bhopal gas leak saga last evening generated much heat, hardly any light, and some disagreeable name-calling . We had former CBI director Joginder Singh calling his former colleague B R Lall ‘ a lier’ ; the later accusing his erstwhile boss of foot-dragging . Mr Lal held that his communication to CBI director seeking permission to prosecute important individuals in some cases (he cites some) evoked negative response. Mr Singh cried foul, saying, ‘don’t believe whatever he says , he’s a lier’. Mr Lall pressed on with his charge , saying he held copies of the d/o letters he wrote and he was prepared to send them on to Mr Singh.
Mr Lall’s credentials for inclusion in the TV show was his earlier disclosure that , as former CBI joint-director, he had been privy to a communication from the external affairs ministry asking CBI not to proceed with the case for extradition of former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson from the US. In a different context Mr Joginder Singh admitted , what we had suspected all along, that CBI was not an independent agency.
A question I haven’t heard being addressed in any talk show relates to the refusal of Union Carbide to disclose the antidote to Methyl isocyanate (MIC), the killer gas. Doctors in Bhopal, clueless and left to their own devices, administered drugs for cyanide poisoning, as gas victims poured in at Hamidia Hospital , only to die by the hundreds. Question : 1) Does legal provision protecting trade and industrial secrets outweigh the need to share information, so essential to save lives of innocent gas victims ? 2) Isn’t Union Carbide liable to the charge of willful disregard for human life ; shouldn’t it be penalised for witholding, nay, refusing to divulge to doctors MIC chemical code that could have saved lives in thousands ?