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The Bhopal Disaster: A tragedy in the Indian Industrial history

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  1. The start of the crisis.
  2. Analysis of the triggering event.
    1. The technical errors and failures.
  3. Amplification of the crisis.
  4. The origins of the crisis.
    1. Relations between the Indian authorities and UCIL.
    2. The economical context.
    3. Previous accidents and warnings.
    4. Sabotage.
  5. The consequences of the crisis.
    1. A human disaster.
    2. A legal crisis.
    3. Effects on the company and its stocks.
  6. Reaction of the stakeholders and their reaction.
  7. Union Carbide Corporation and its subsidiary UCIL.
    1. Aftermath of the explosion.
  8. The government of India.
  9. The Bhopal population and its victims.
  10. Management of the crisis and the communication plan.
  11. The lessons learnt by the company the changes adopted after the crisis.
    1. Long term and short term crisis.
  12. Conclusion.
  13. Sources.

The Bhopal disaster happened in the early hours of the morning of December 3rd, 1984. It is one of the most terrible industrial disaster or maybe even the most terrible disaster that ever happened. It took place in Bhopal which is the capital city of an Indian state called Madhya Pradesh. The factory was a Union Carbide subsidiary which produced pesticides (Temik and Sevin). Union Carbide was at the time one of the biggest American chemical firm. The subsidiary was called UCIL (Union Carbide India Limited). On its website dedicated to the tragedy, Union Carbide insists on the fact that UCIL was an Indian company and that the American firm only owned over half of the stock. The remainder of the stock was owned by Indian financial institutions and private investors. The plant was built in 1978 in Bhopal where about 300,000 people were living. It was located 5 kilometers far from the village and 1 kilometer far from the railway station. The Indian government had encouraged the building of the plant since it was trying to increase the productivity of its agricultural sector and to reach food self-sufficiency.

[...] In UCIL, the Union Carbide Indian subsidiary, Keshub Mahindra, the Chairman and J.Mukund, the Bhopal Factory Manager were appointed to new positions. Also, a large number of Bhopal plant managers left the company after the plant closure. The trauma of the disaster cascaded to the bottom of the hierarchy. As a matter of fact, in addition to these high-profile departures, lots of employees decided to leave the firm. This compelled the human resources department into designing a new recruitment scheme to renew the workforce but also to offset the side-effects of all these resignations. [...]


[...] Just only because an announcement of what happened in Bhopal, the firm lost a huge amount of money. The truth of all the UCC shareholders in the company was at stake. Recovering the truth is not so easy and it depends on a good communication of what it is going on in order to show a real transparency that can avoid gossips and wrong information. If you don't communicate other people will communicate instead of you. You have to communicate and the objective of a good crisis communication is to fill the gap between what you perceive and what the people perceive of the situation. [...]


[...] We tried to summarize and classify all the Bhopal crisis' stakeholders in the chart below: In the light of this report and in order to clarify our analysis, we decided to focus our attention on what appears to be the three main stakeholders in the Bhopal crisis e.g respectively, the Union Carbide company and its subsidiary UCIL (Union Carbide India Limited), the government of India and, last but not least, all the individuals who suffered directly from the industrial catastrophe Union Carbide Corporation and its subsidiary UCIL Aftermath of the explosion Union Carbide's first reaction came from the employees working on the Bhopal plant: just after the explosion, they all fled from the industrial site and from the city. [...]

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