Chennai groups oppose Tata’s offer to clean up Bhopal

Youth for Social Change & Others, Chennai, March 3, 2007
At least 100 supporters and campaigners of the survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy today participated in a rally to oppose the recent offer by the Tata chairman Ratan Tata to facilitate the re-entry of Union Carbide and its new owner Dow Chemical into India. Ratan Tata has offered to set up a fund to clean up toxic wastes and contamination in and around the Union Carbide’s abandoned pesticide factory in Bhopal.
The rally that began at Monroe Statue in Anna Salai was led Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective members from Chennai. Placards and banners condemning the offer of Ratan Tata were part of the display. Tata’s offer comes 22 years after the disaster ad coincidentally when Ratan Tata is the co-chair of the US-India CEO Forum, a high-powered club of Indian and American industry leaders that seek to redesign Indian laws and policies to make them friendly to big business. Andrew Liveris, the CEO of Dow Chemical is also a member of the Forum. Significantly, the Tamilnadu Vanigar Sangam (Tamilnadu Merchant’s Association) joined the rally, and raised a call to condemn Ratan Tata and Tata companies. The powerful association with tens of thousands of members throughout Tamilnadu is considering issuing a resolution against Tata companies and their products.
“Union Carbide is a criminal corporation that is absconding from Indian courts. Dow Chemical, Carbide’s new owner is sheltering Carbide. It is disgraceful to see Ratan Tata openly serving as an agent to a company that ran away after causing the world’s worst industrial disaster,” said Sheelu of Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective, an active supporter of the struggle for justice in Bhopal.
Tata enjoys an unjustifiably good reputation in India. In reality, it is just another corporation that will do whatever it takes to pad their bottom line. “Like Union Carbide, there are numerous places in India where Tatas have contaminated and failed to clean-up. If Ratan Tata is serious about his claims to ethical behavior, he ought to clean up the contamination caused by Tata companies before doing anything else,” said Dharmesh Shah, a volunteer with the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. In Mithapur, Gujarat, Tata Chemical’s factories have openly dumped untreated effluents on land and at sea devastating agriculture, mangroves, coral reefs and fisheries. In Patancheru, Andhra Pradesh, Rallis India – a Tata company – has dumped pesticide wastes in the open causing widespread groundwater and air pollution. In Sukhinda, Orissa, Tata’s chromite mines have laid waste several streams and is identified as a pollution hotspot by the Comptroller and Auditor General. In Jugsalai, Jamshedpur, Tata Steel has created a mountain by dumping toxic boiler ash.
In December 1984, a poisonous gas leak from Union Carbide’s pesticide factory killed more than 8000 people. Several thousand tones of toxic wastes are abandoned at the factory site and have leached dangerous chemicals into the groundwater. Union Carbide and its new owner Dow Chemicals have refused to clean-up.
Other participants in the rally included members of local fishing groups, youth organisations and unorganised labor rights unions. Last month a youth group from Chennai, Youth for Social Change launched a boycott of employment at Tata Group of Companies and collected more than 250 signatures from students. The survivors of the Gas Tragedy and their relatives are currently on a Right to Life campaign against the Madhya Pradesh government demanding some basic services like health care, economic rehabilitation, social support and safe drinking water. Solidarity rallies and demonstrations by supporters were also held at Delhi and Pune.
For more information, contact: Dharmesh Shah: 9444416546.
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