Bhopal gas survivors demand action against US firm

Bhopal, Feb 17 (IANS) Survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy have called on the central government to file a police complaint against a US-based chemical company and its Indian subsidiary for allegedly paying bribes to Indian officials to get its pesticides registered.
Dow Chemical Company, which was fined by US financial regulator Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier this week for paying $200,000 (Rs.8.8 million) in bribes to several central government officials. Dow’s Indian subsidiary is Dow Agrosciences India.
The US-based firm now owns the Union Carbide Corp (UCC), where disaster occurred on the intervening night of Dec 2-3, 1984 after over 40 tonnes of lethal Methyl Iso-Cyanate (MIC) spewed out of its pesticide plant here, killing more than 3,000 people instantly and maiming thousands of people for life. More than 15,000 people affected with the exposure of toxic gas have died since then.
Addressing a joint press conference Friday, the leaders of various organisations, including Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (BGPMSKS), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha (BGPMPSM), Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) and Bhopal Ki Aawaaz (BKA), have also demanded separate enquiries by India’s law enforcement authorities and the Economic Offences Wing into the matter.
“According to SEC records, one senior official in the Central Insecticides Board received $39,700 (Rs.1.6 million) for registering Dow’s pesticides in India between 1996 and 2001 while other state officials received the remaining amount for facilitating distribution and sale of Dow’s pesticides,” Satinath Sarangi of BGIA said.
The survivors, he said, have long been demanding withdrawal of Indian registration for Dow’s flagship product – Dursban (chlorpyriphos) – a pesticide banned for domestic use in the US.
“In 2000, US environment officials forced its withdrawal as they found the chemical – strong enough to damage the brain – widely present in ground water and human body. Yet, Dow continues to produce and market Dursban in India for domestic use falsely claiming that it is safe for humans,” Sarangi lamented.
He said there were several instances when Dow’s dishonest practices in India were exposed. In 2005, Indian Oil Corp cancelled a deal with Dow because it falsely sold Union Carbide technology as its own.
Last year, Dow Corning, a joint venture of Dow Chemical, obtained regulatory approval from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board for setting up a factory near Pune. The firm managed to get permission to operate its factory despite submitting a map of its factory in Elizabethtown in the US instead of a local site map as required by Indian law.
“The bribes to senior officials are merely the tip of the iceberg. We find even the prime minister’s office turning a blind eye to the ongoing crimes of the Union Carbide and Dow Chemical and offering special privileges for expansion of the latter’s business in this country.” said the Golden Peacock award winner Rashida Bee of BGPMSKS.

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