Children Against Dow-Carbide member Sarita talks to Mohan Jain, whose trust partners the Jaipur-based Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayog Samiti(BMVSS) in its Jaipur Foot work along with sponsor Dow India
CHENNAI, 17 DECEMBER, 2008 – Five second-generation victims of Dow Chemical’s contamination in Bhopal are in Chennai to urge Chennai-based Adinath Jain Trust and Jaipur-based Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayog Samiti (BMVSS) to return the money they received from Dow for providing free Jaipur Foot to disabled people. “We respect the work done by the organisations promoting Jaipur Foot. But we’re also concerned that this work is now tainted with Dow’s money and the blood of Bhopali children,” said 16-year old Sarita Malviya of the newly formed Children Against Dow-Carbide. Sarita lives with her siblings and parents in a water-affected community. Children Against Dow Carbide, and students of Vidyasagar, a Chennai-based institution for people with special needs, addressed the press conference.
In August 2008, Dow India announced a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative to donate Rs. 1 crore to BMVSS, the organisation that popularised Jaipur Foot around the world. Adinath Jain Trust, the Chennai-based BMVSS affiliate, is organising a 5-day Jaipur foot camp in Choolai.
The Bhopali youth, accompanied by children from Vidyasagar yesterday met Mr. Mohan Jain of Adinath Jain Trust to explain to him the antecedents of their funders — Dow Chemical and Union Carbide. “We believe Mr. Jain was not told that Dow is responsible for the sorry plight of thousands of Bhopali children. If he knew how Dow has refused to clean up the toxic wastes in Bhopal, and how their inaction has crippled Bhopali children at birth, he would not like to be associated with the company,” said Rafat Khan, another member of Children Against Dow-Carbide. Rafat’s family is twice affected. Both parents are gas-affected, and the family moved home to an area behind Union Carbide where the drinking water is tainted with life-threatening poisons. Mr. Jain said he was not told about Dow Chemical’s past, would appreciate any evidence supporting the allegations against Dow to enable him to take a decision. The children have promised to send him a dossier of information. The children also pointed out that Dow’s polyurethane plastic, which will now replace the vulcanised rubber used till date for the Jaipur foot, is a toxic material. It is fire prone, and once afire will release gases like Hydrogen Cyanide, one of the Bhopal gases, and benzene, a carcinogen.
The children said Dow’s corporate responsibility initiatives are hypocritical. “By themselves, initiatives such as providing artificial limbs for the disabled are laudable. But Dow Chemical’s gesture is akin to a drug peddler setting up a drug rehabilitation clinic. It is meant to deflect public attention from their failure to rehabilitate the children hurt by its poisons.”
A 2003 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association reported that male offspring of gas-affected parents suffer from severely compromised physical development. Anecdotal reports also indicate that sexual and mental disorders are rampant among children of disaster victims. Additionally, Dow-Carbide is refusing to clean up the widespread contamination of soil and groundwater. Nearly 25000 people drink this water. Children from water-affected communities are afflicted with skin diseases, tumours, joint pains and developmental disorders. Chemicals in the water include chlorobenzenes, chloroform, and heavy metals like mercury and lead.
The children are visiting at least 10 city schools and colleges to urge youngsters to form “Friends of Bhopal” clubs to spread awareness about Bhopal, pollution and the crimes of corporations such as Dow and Union Carbide.
For more information, contact: Nityanand Jayaraman. Tel: 9444082401
PROFILE OF CHILDREN FROM BHOPAL
Suraj (8 yrs) lives in water affected community called Kainchi Chhola and the mother is also gas affected. He is physically and mentally disabled. He is not able to walk, stand, sit or talk. Suraj has 2 siblings who are not disabled. He is accompanied by his mother, Kesar Bai.
Shahid (13 yrs) lives in water affected community called Blue Moon colony. Both his parents are gas affected and his father just died a month ago from renal failure. From birth both of his legs were deformed legs. Earlier he was not able to walk but due to Chingari’s operation he is able to walk, but one can still clearly see the defect. Due to his father’s death, nobody in his family can come with him, so Meera, a gas victim and member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, has accompanied him.
Vikas (8 yrs) lives in J.P. Nagar. As per the Indian Council for Medical Research, J.P. Nagar is one of the severely affected communities. Both of his parents are gas affected. Both he and his older brother (Akash) were born disabled. He is both physically and mentally disabled. He is not able to walk or talk. His father, Sanjay, has accompanied him.
Sarita Malviya (Founder Member – Children Against Dow-Carbide)
Sarita is a resident of one of the many water contaminated communities living around the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. Sarita joined the Bhopal movement at the age of 14 when she learnt that the water in her community was contaminated. At a time when most of her friends were busy grappling with school lessons Sarita was busy demanding justice for her family and for the gas victims.
Sarita has since traveled to many states in India and addressed several school and college students. Now 16, Sarita wants to be a lawyer when she grows up and fight for the poor.
Rafat Khan (Member – Children Against Dow-Carbide)
Rafat belongs to a family of 6 members who live behind the Union Carbide factory. Both her parents were exposed to the gas in 1984. After which they moved to their new house in Gupta Nagar only to discover that their water was laced with the same poisons that killed Bhopal. Now having nowhere to go, Rafat and her family continue to live in the area and consume poisoned water daily.
Rafat and her sister Yasmin were the youngest members of the team of 50 survivors who walked from Bhopal to Delhi to meet the Prime Minister earlier this year.