INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR JUSTICE IN BHOPAL, JUNE 30, 2007
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: MANMOHAN SINGH, KAMAL NATH, ANDREW LIVERIS OF DOW CHEMICAL, ROTTEN TATA. CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE.
NEW DELHI. June 30, 2007 — Organisations of survivors of the December 1984 Bhopal disaster today strongly condemned Commerce and Industries Minister Kamalnath for his recent public assurance to indemnify Dow Chemical, in Washington DC, USA. They charged him and the Prime Minister with selling out to Dow Chemical, current owner of Union Carbide.
PMO Files obtained by survivors’ organisations from the Prime Minister’s Office through Right to Information reveal that the Prime Minister is involved in plans that would allow Dow Chemical to walk away from its liabilities in Bhopal, including clean up of the contaminated soil and ground water and paying compensation for the health damages caused to more than 20,000 people due to exposure to toxic contaminants in their drinking water. The “PMO Files” have been uploaded to: www.bhopal.net/pmo.html.
In a note to the PMO, Mr. Kamal Nath says: “. . .with a view to sending an appropriate signal to Dow Chemicals, which is exploring investing substantially in India, I would urge that a group under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary be formed to look into the matter in a holistic manner . . .in a similar manner as was done with respect to the Enron Corproation with respect to Dabhol Power Corporation.” The latter refers to an out-of-court settlement with Enron.
Prompted by letters written by Ratan Tata to the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Mr. P. Chidambaram too have written letters to the PM recommending taking the matter out of court. The bone of contention is an application submitted by the Ministry of Chemicals in the Madhya Pradesh High Court appealing to the Court to order Dow to deposit Rs. 100 crores against initial payment for costs of remediation. Dow Chemical has said that it will not invest in India unless this application is withdrawn.
A note by the Cabinet Secretary dated 6 April, 2007 is categorical about what the Government’s course of action should be: “Given the scope for future investments in the sector, it stands to reason that instead of continuing to agitate these issues in court for a protracted period, due consideration be given to the prospect of settling these issues appropriately. An important aim is to remove uncertainties and pave the way for promoting investments in the sector.” The Note recommends reconstituting the Group of Ministers on Bhopal with appropriate changes in its mandate to address the issue of exonerating Dow.
As 100% owner of Union Carbide, Dow Chemical is liable for the clean up of toxic contamination of soil and ground water in and around the abandoned factory in Bhopal, said Sarangi. He said that this liability followed from the “polluter pays” principle which is the law of the land both in India and USA. According to Mr Sarangi, Dow Chemical is also liable for the health damages, including congenital malformations, caused to the 25, 000 people living near the Carbide factory who have been drinking water laced with toxic chemicals and heavy metals for the last 15 years or more.
“The PMO files contain evidence that top level politicians and bureaucrats are conniving with Indian and US corporations to shut the book on the world’s worst industrial disaster and its long-suffering victims without addressing the pending issues,” said Rashida Bee, leader of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh.
Indeed, one letter reveals that Dow was advised by none less than the PM’s principal secretary to meet and seek the opinion of congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Singhvi is also the legal counsel for Dow in the Madhya Pradesh High Court.