Bush’s India trip touches nerve on US business human rights record

March 1, 2006
While some in the Indian business community hope for expanded trade from the Bush visit, “another India” is protesting expanded US business until past human rights violations are resolved. Anti-Bush events lampoon the American President around the country and Bush was burned in effigy in one state capital – Bhopal. Anger about practices of US corporations including Coca Cola and Dow Chemical Company are feeding the fire.
Bhopal marchers burn effifies of Bush and Cheney im Guna
Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Chemical Disaster are a week into a month-long March to New Delhi, to demand the Indian government stop US-based Dow Chemical’s expansion in India until it faces charges of culpable homicide for the disaster. Already pressure from the survivors blocked a deal between Indian Oil and Dow. Survivors want Dow to stop aggressively marketing its neurotoxic pesticide Dursban in India, which is banned for home use in the US after the severe poisoning of several children. The survivors are also demanding clean water and medical care from the Indian Government after 21 years of death and pollution caused by Dow Chemical’s current subsidiary Union Carbide.
The Bush administration thwarted efforts to extradite former Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson to India to face trial. Freedom of Information documents indicate possible collusion between lawyers for Union Carbide and the US State Dept. The Survivors meanwhile march on, having gained support from 18 members of Congress headed by Rep. Frank Pallone in the past few years, along with city councils in Seattle and San Francisco. Civil cases for clean up of the contaminated plant site are pending in US and Indian Courts.
A Bhopal doctor has painted Bush’s portrait in blood
As Bush visits with students in Hyderabad, other Indian students will be supporting the Bhopal March. Coca Cola’s poisoning of rural water supplies, as well as high pesticide levels in its product, has generated campus boycotts of Coke in the US and India. These actions serve as a warning for business expansion in India that does not take in basic human rights in its calculations.
An Amnesty International report that used Bhopal as a case study, calls for International Human Rights Norms for Business. US-controlled Union Carbide built a poorly designed pesticide plant that poisoned local water – killing animals, driving reporters to warn of catastrophe, and causing workers to quit in droves in the 1980s. An estimated 8,000 people died almost overnight on December 3rd, 1984 when a toxic gas leak swept from the plant into the city. Today over 100,000 people are permanently disabled. Of a half million survivors, 10-15 still die monthly from the disaster’s effects and the poisoned water, ~22,000 have died in total. Union Carbide abandoned the site and paid a meagre settlement averaging ~$300-500 per person. Carbide has been declared a “fugitive from justice” by Indian Courts; the company’s current owner Dow Chemical refuses to face the charges.
Some Indians fear repeating with the US, the history of corporate colonialism that began with the East India Company consuming India for the British Empire. The rush of US investment, profiting from India’s cheap, skilled labor has often resulted in pollution, worker death and in the most tragic case, the Bhopal Chemical Disaster of 1984.
To arrange interviews with Bhopal marchers contact Madhumita Dutta or Nishant Jain and for US based support groups contact Diana Ruiz.
Video footage of the march available upon request.
Diana Ruiz 415-999-9074 (PT-Cell)
Carolyn Oppenheim, 413-584-9642 (ET)
Madhumita Dutta, + 91 (11) 26105472/
41652451-52 (office), mdutta@vsnl.net
Nishant Jain, + 91 (11) 9811764745
For media reports of the Indian protests against Bush’s visit, please also see https://www.bhopal.net/bhopalinthenews/

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