See related story of student resistance to Dow recruitment on IIT campuses here
24 October, 2007 . New Delhi — More than 1000 alumni and former faculty members of various Indian Institutes of Technology have signed a petition addressed to the directors of all IITs urging them to bar Union Carbide’s owner, The Dow Chemical Company, from any partnership or role in the premier institute. The petition was released by two eminent IIT alumni – noted columnist Praful Bidwai and Magasaysay Award winner and Right to Information activist Arvind Kejriwal. Also included in the list of signatories are noted social activists such as Dunu Roy, Magasaysay winner Sandeep Pandey, anti-dam activists Himanshu Thakkar and Shripad Dharmadhikari.
Separately, another petition circulated within IIT Madras urging its Director to bar Dow from recruiting students on campus has generated 89 signatures, including from 22 faculty and 67 students. The company has cancelled its briefing talks in IIT Madras and IIT Bombay without giving any reasons after students raised issue about its entry into IIT.
In May 2005, more than 1200 IIT alumni in the US petitioned the organizers of the Global IIT Conference and forced them to cancel a key note address by then Dow Chemical CEO William Stavropoulos. The public outrage stems from Dow’s continued evasion of its legal responsibilities in Bhopal. “Dow has acquired Union Carbide — not just its assets, but its liabilities as well,” said Bidwai. “The company has to clean-up the toxic wastes in Bhopal, compensate the victims of contamination, and force its subsidiary to face criminal trial in the Bhopal court. Otherwise, it will be met with hostility wherever it goes in India.”
Survivors and their substantial supporter base across the world have opposed the UPA Government’s plans to write off Dow’s liabilities in return for investments in India. Dow has warned India that it will not invest in the country unless Carbide’s substantial liabilities are written off. Besides being held responsible for the clean-up of the toxic wastes and groundwater in Bhopal, Union Carbide was declared an absconder in 1992 by the Bhopal Magistrate for its failure to honour summons to face charges of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder.” Ever since it took over Carbide in 2001, Dow Chemical has actively shielded the company from Indian courts even while profiting from the illegal sale of its products in India.
IITians have alluded to Dow’s chequered track record and questionable ethics. The fact that Dow is sheltering Union Carbide and arm-twisting the pliant Indian Government to grant it immunity from legal proceedings finds mention in the alumni petition. IIT alumni also refer to two instances of Dow’s dishonesty and corruption to argue that the unethical company should be barred from gaining legitimacy through association with IIT. In early 2007, Dow was caught for paying more than $200,000 (Rs. 80 lakhs) in bribes to senior agriculture ministry officials to expedite registration of three pesticides, including one that is banned for household use in the United States owing to its toxicity. In 2005, Indian Oil Corporation was forced to cancel a technology contract with Dow after survivors demonstrated that Dow had lied to IOC about the ownership of the technology. It had tried to pass off a Union Carbide owned technology as its own to avoid legal action because of Carbide’s status as an absconder.
Bidwai and Kejriwal called upon IITs to set an example by developing screening criteria for corporations wishing to partner or recruit from IITs. They also called upon IIT students to bar Dow from entering their campuses. “In the absence of any screening mechanism in IITs, all kinds of companies including those with horrendous environmental and human rights track records, or those found to be corrupt and unethical like Dow enter the campuses easily,” said Kejriwal. “This situation has to be remedied because technology without ethics is precisely what led to the world’s worst industrial disaster.”
For more information Contact: Praful Bidwai: 2437 7278/2437 2886
Or, Shalini Sharma: 9891 44 2037, sh.shalini at gmail.com