Today at around 5 p.m., more than 50 children gathered inside the lobby of CitiCenter, an upmarket shopping mall set up on land that was forcibly acquired by evicting three dalit villages in the heart of Chennai. Dow Chemical has its office in the 6th floor of the mall. Last month, Bhopal survivor Rashida Bee had delivered a broom symbolising their anger at CitiCenter’s insensitivity at accommodating Dow Chemical in their premises. The children held banners that announced their boycott of Citi Center and said they will mobilise more children and convince them against patronising Citi Center until justice is delivered in Bhopal.
With this action, the children of Chennai have opened a new front against Dow Chemical in India, with Prime Minister on the one side batting for Dow and the students and children of India on the other resolved to evict Dow from India.
3 December, 2007. CHENNAI — Marking the 23rd anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, more than 50 Chennai children aged between 12 and 16 gathered at the central lobby of the Citi Center mall to demand for the eviction of Dow Chemical from the premises. Dow Chemical, the new owner of Union Carbide, has an office in the 6 th Floor of the upmarket mall in Mylapore. Union Carbide, which was declared an absconder by a criminal court in Bhopal in 1991, was taken over by Dow Chemical in 2001. Dow has refused to produce Union Carbide in court, even while providing an avenue for Carbide to continue profiting from sales in the Indian market without threat of arrest. With the help of industry leaders like Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, Dow has managed to win the favour of the Prime Minister’s office which has promised to write off Dow’s liabilities in Bhopal if the company invests heavily in India.
“We are ashamed of the Government of India’s stance of welcoming Dow to the country, and want to make it clear to the residents of Bhopal that the people of India believe in their struggle, and the children of Chennai will not sit idle when Dow tries to go about business as usual,” said Mansi Karthik, a 11th grade student who is spokesperson for Chennai for Bhopal.
In February 2007, Dow Chemical was fined $300,000 by a US Government agency for having paid Rs. 80 lakhs in bribes to Indian officials to license a pesticide that was banned in the US because of its harmful effects on children’s brains. The company continues to market this pesticide which is called Dursban.
The children, many of whom are regular visitors to the Citi Center mall, said they will boycott the unethical mall and will encourage their other friends to do the same. “If the people in control of Citi Center have children, we believe they will take our actions in the right spirit and evict Dow from their premises,” the children said.
The children also distributed pamphlets that alerted other shops in Citi Center that their neighbour – Dow Chemical/Union Carbide – was a murderer charged with the murder of more than 8000 people in the Bhopal disaster.
On December 3, 1984, a poisonous gas leaked from Union Carbide’s underdesigned pesticide factory in Bhopal. At least 500,000 people were exposed to the poisonous gases that night. Union Carbide ran away to its home country, the United States of America, leaving behind thousands of tons of toxic wastes in and around its factory premises. The wastes have leached poisons into the groundwater. More than 25000 people consume the contaminated groundwater for want of a clean alternative. The incidence of birth defects and congenital deformities in the community is alarmingly high.
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