BHOPAL-E – BEYOND THE GAS, JANUARY 2, 2007
After a court in New York observed that any order by it directing Union Carbide to clean up Bhopal will run into technical problems “because of the impracticality of a court-supervised clean-up project on land owned by a foreign sovereign.”, the only case pending against DOW about the Bhopal Gas Victims is the case in the Indian High Court of Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh naming Union Carbide, Eveready Industries (Carbide’s successor in India) and Carbide’s new owner Dow Chemical as respondents.
DOW chemicals has consistently denied being inheritor of the liabilities of Union Carbide, after purchasing Union Carbide Ltd in 1999. DOW CEO Liveris insists that liabilities, if any, is of Union Carbide, and no liability rests with Dow as it was not in the picture when the disaster took place 22 years ago. It may be noted here that 12 years ago, US court deemed that the case for compensation should be tried in India rather than in the U.S. As a result, after five years of legal wrangling, the Indian Government was forced to reach an of court settlement with Union Carbide for 470 million US dollars, a fraction of the three billion dollars, originally claimed. Union Carbide also refused to pay the 220 million dollars demanded by survivors’ organizations as interim relief. But the issue of who will eventually pay for the cleaning up thousands of tons of toxic wastes abandoned by Union Carbide in and around its factory site remains. Meanwhile, India has emerged as an economical superpower and DOW chemicals is eyeing the lucrative market. Now Ratan Tata wants to set up a corpus with the help of other Indian companies and Dow to clean up the Bhopal plant site. Dow Chemicals will make “substantial financial contributions”. Meanwhile, Dow has been allowed collaboration with Reliance Industries Ltd by the Ministry of Industry after taking a green signal from the Law Ministry. The foreign collaboration approval was given to Dow in October, signalling that India has not blacklisted Dow as an investor. West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has also indicated to Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) representatives that he is looking towards Dow setting up a chemical industry in his state. Dow says that while it is comfortable with the case against Union Carbide proceeding in the court, it finds the Department of Chemicals suggestion that Dow fork out Rs 100 crore as an interpretation that the government was holding Dow liable. In a letter to the Ministry of Industry on December 8, the Charge d’ Affairs of the US Embassy in Delhi urged the government to withdraw the Rs 100-crore claim on Dow. A senior Cabinet Minister said: “if we do not help Dow settle this, then the company will move to Thailand or Vietnam.”
Dow wants to evade legal liability, the Indian government is in favor of burying the legacy and telling corporations what they want to hear – that they can come and do as they please in India. Successive Indian governments have failed Bhopali gas victims, right after the terrible incident, till non-disbursal of compensation 22 years after the tragedy
Signing off! Bhopal-e on Tuesday, January 02, 2007