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Scrutiny
  
Your MNC, your cancer!
MNCs are hailed as national treasures in some countries; but their devil-may-care attitude results in many tragedies – both industrial and health – making them reasons for global shame
08/01/2009

Globalisation is inevitable as we reside in a ‘global village’. And the entities which benefit the most, perhaps, out of this phenomenon are modern day centres of affluence and influence – MNCs. As they profit and in the process, enhance employment and production, what goes unnoticed is that their drive to profit, which leaves many in pain, is encouraged by their lack of concern and efforts towards safe working of their industrial units across the globe.

A McKinsey report has exemplified that the cumulative market value of top 10 Fortune 500 companies is equal to the combined GDP of India and Brazil or total forex reserve of six leading Gulf oil exporting countries in 2006; at the same time, the clearly irresponsible, greedy and biased business policies and activities of these MNCs – and we tread quite firm ground when we partake of such suppositions – without considering people, environment and legal aspects, have brought a quasi-apocalypse in the form of fatal industrial accidents, environmental hazards and pollution related health issues affecting millions in innumerable ways. If the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984 (which we dare say has become a staid benchmark) can be considered the most horrifying industrial catastrophe in history, claiming between 3,000 and 20,000 lives, leaving thousands with serious diseases and injuries, what we consider worse is the knee jerk reaction of Dow Chemicals – the global giant providing innovative chemical, plastic and agricultural products and services and responsible for this industrial catastrophe – which publicly disowned its accountability. Consider the amount with which Dow tried to console affected families – a mere $300-$500. And when some 200 women protested against Dow for its meagre response and for not really taking any proactive mechanisms to clean up the area stacked with dangerous toxic waste which spreads many gas related diseases in the small town Bhopal, Dow sued them in return for raising voice against the company using it’s political, monetary and muscle power. When an explosion and fire ruined a fireworks factory belonging to Bright Sparkles Sdn.
Bhd. at Sungai Buloh, Malaysia in 1991, causing 22 deaths and injuring 103, Bright Sparkles remained lukewarm in helping victims and their families and compensating the environmental damages it has caused. The lethal leak of phosgene gas in a Thai petrochemical company, Thai Polycarbonate Co., which killed only one but injured over hundreds, evoked almost no unified response, despite shocking proof being there of repeated calls earlier on warning of a possible leak. And the fiery explosion at one of the largest oil refineries of British Petroleum in Texas City in 2005, is another example of such unabashed irresponsibility. Well, BP has had a sparkling record of fatal accidents for the last few decades. Honourably so, it is the eighth largest polluter in the US, releasing over 5.1 million tonnes of pollutants with many harmful toxic gases like carcinogens, causing serious health ill-effects to 30,000 people living within three mile radius of its units. But while FBI investigation and imposition of new laws and fines continues, BP operates mercifully at worse levels.

On another front, Nigeria has redefined corporate social irresponsibility. Companies like Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron are reaping off the nation’s oil industry but continue showing deliberate negligence to protecting the environment, human life and the locality which have been affected by the gas leakage and flares in their plants or refineries.

Protocols like the Kyoto one are more stupidly chivalrous rather than being autocratically (and logically) regulatory. International agencies have to necessarily regulate MNCs with an iron hand, than play to the lobby gallery.

By:- Akram Hoque
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