India Post, 5 December, 2007
NEW DELHI: The 23rd Anniversary of Bhopal Gas Disaster was observed on December 3 by eminent personalities. Marking it as the “Black Day”, these dignitaries gathered to condemned the Indian Government for bailing out DOW chemical (which was responsible for the tragedy in December 1984, killing and injuring thousands) of legal liabilities.
The conference was addressed by noted journalist and columnist Kuldip Nayar, academician activist Dr Kamal Mitra Chenoy, disability rights activist Javed Abidi and Dr Mira Shiva, initiative for health equity and society and All India Drug Action Network.
The group strongly criticized UPA government plans to dismiss DOW’s liabilities in return for investment in India as per recent media reports. Besides being held responsible for the clean-up of the toxic wastes and groundwater in Bhopal, Union Carbide was declared an absconder in 1992 by the Bhopal Magistrate for its failure to honor summons to face charges of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder.”
Ever since it took over Carbide in 2001, Dow Chemical has actively shielded the company from Indian courts even while profiting from the illegal sale of its products in India. “Bhopal is now equated with injustice, corporate crime and Government insensitivity towards their own.
For years, the criminal trial has not been able to progress because Union Carbide is absconding, and the Government has refused to act strongly to enforce its appearance. And now it seems to have been taken in by their billion dollar investment plans. It is high time Government represents its own people and not companies like Dow.
It must make Dow honor Indian law and lives” stressed Nayar. “The 1989 settlement, the manner in which it had been arrived, and its adequacy is grossly unjust. Even after 23 years the impact of the health disaster is being witnessed. It is a pity that long term studies by ICMR have been stopped mid way.” said, Dr. Shiva.
“Moreover, by permitting Dow to sell products like Dursban which are banned in US due to its proven toxicity, Government has only shown its indifference towards peoples’ health.” Dow was fined heavily by US Securities Exchange Commission for bribing Indian Officials to facilitate its business, recently CBI raided Dow’s offices across the country.
Over 20,000 gassed to death, 150,000 continue to be chronically ill and a new generation of children being born with severe birth defects. Dow’s refusal to disclose the information regarding the composition of the gas leak and ICMR’s failure to provide the toxicology reports barred the victims from getting appropriate treatment.
“High incidence of second generation effects in the children of gas exposed parents and now severe birth defects in the children being born in water affected areas only proves Government’s failure to prevent incidences of disabilities where it was completely avoidable at the first instance.” remarked Javed Abidi.
Besides arm twisting Indian Government Dow in fact has been trying all means to evade its liabilities including its repeated attempts at forging relationships with reputed Indian academic institutes.
Prof Chenoy commented, “we need to question and regulate the kind of companies that enter the academic institutes else before we realize our students would be manipulated into becoming unofficial spokesperson for these companies to suite their publicity gimmicks.
Dow is a company whose environment and accountability record worldwide is shocking. By refusing Dow entries into the campus IITians have not only prevented the company to use them to gain legitimacy in the country but also proved that Justice comes before Business.” It is notable that last February, more than 55 survivors and their supporters walked to New Delhi and met the Prime Minister after a weeklong hunger strike.
At that time, the Prime Minister promised to act promptly on providing clean water, health care, employment and social support and set up a Coordination Committee to oversee the implementation of these assurances. However, the State Government has failed to implement any of the recommendations of the Committee.
The Centre too has shown no keenness to keep their word. Rather, documents obtained from the Prime Minister’s Office reveal that the Prime Minister is actively pushing a proposal to grant Dow Chemical immunity so that Dow and Union Carbide can invest freely in India.
Forced by the failure of State Government to ensure effective relief and rehabilitation, Bhopal survivors declared this 23rd Anniversary as the “Black Day” and announced another Padyatra to compel Government not to surrender before Dow’s billion dollar bait.
India Post News Service