Mihika Basu, Daily News & Analysis, July 15, 2008
Golden jubilee organisers asked not to associate with the chemical company
Even as the alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) are getting together in July to celebrate 50 years of their alma mater, a section of them have condemned the organisers of the 2008 IIT-Bombay Golden Jubilee Conference for accepting Dow Chemical as a Gold Sponsor.
In a letter titled “stop Dow from polluting IIT’s Golden Jubilee” sent to organisers in June, the alumni requested the organisers to refuse Gold Sponsorship from Dow until the company owned up to its responsibility towards Bhopal. The conference is scheduled to be held in New York from July 18 to 20.
Janak Daftari, former secretary of the Mumbai chapter of the IIT-B Alumni Association, who has been spearheading the campaign in the city said, “In future too, I will protest if any IIT fraternity gets associated with Dow.”
Apart from the alumni, 43 IIT-B faculty members have condemned the organisers in an open letter dated June 10. The letter states, “Dow Chemical aims to acquire legitimacy and credibility by forging alliance with IITs. The reputation of IITs will be tarnished by any association with Dow Chemical. We believe that it would be against national interest.” The letter notes that the acceptance of sponsorship “would set an incorrect precedent”. A disclaimer states that the letter was in their capacity as concerned citizens of India, and did not represent the institute’s official position.
Milind Gokhale, former CEO of the IIT-B Alumni Association and an elected director on the association’s board, said the conference was being organised by the alumni in USA and the institute had nothing to do with organising it. “The Alumni Association is a Section 25 company and does not take a stand on social and political issues,” he said.
DB Phatak, convener of golden jubilee celebrations, said sometime back, when Dow had come to IIT-B with a set of proposed projects in research and development, several faculty members and students had opposed it and demanded a debate on the issue. “IIT-B, as an institute, refused to take a stand on it, but allowed individual faculty members to make individual proposals.”