Dow Group jittery over mistaken identity

ARUN S, Tuesday, June 13, 2006
NEW DELHI, JUNE 12: The ghosts of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy continues to haunt the Dow group of companies. Even after two decades, the tragedy’s fallouts could be an impediment to the Group’s investment plans in India.
This came to light in Greenbrier, USA during an interactive session that the CEOs of a clutch of multinational companies had with minister of state for industry Ashwani Kumar.
One of those who raised concerns about possible investments in India was Dow Corning CEO Stephanie Burns. Headquartered in Michigan, Dow Corning is owned equally by the Dow Chemical Company and Corning Inc.
Even as Ms Burns showed keen interest to expand her company’s operations, she expressed the apprehension that protests over the gas tragedy in India might prove a stumbling block.
Dow Chemicals holds a part of equity in Union Carbide, the company accused of the gas tragedy.
Confirming the concerns raised by Dow Corning CEO, the minister told FE from the US that he assured her that the Indian government will act within the legal parameters and that the legitimate concerns of Dow Corning will be addressed.
When contacted, Dow Corning (India) head Raj Kapur said “We are very happy with our experience in India so far. In fact, we are committed to India and have made large investments here. Our only concern is that we don’t want to be misunderstood as the entity connected with the tragedy. We are a separate entity and have no connection with the businesses of Dow Chemicals and Union Carbide.”
French oil company Total SA’s CEO also expressed apprehension that the Petroleum Petrochemical Investment Regions may be exclusively driven by the Indian government and the public sector units.
This would not leave much choice for private initiative in the matter, he said.
Mr Kumar told FE that he informed the CEO that this was a flawed perspective and that the government was committed to being an enabler and facilitator.
He added that the government was looking forward to encouraging private sector investment in such regions.
What has given hope to the government is the positive response given by big multinationals like British Petroleum. The company’s executive Ifty Nasir reiterated its commitment to have a major presence in India, sources said.

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