Mahendra Kumar Singh & Bisheshwar Mishra, Times of India, 4 Aug 2007
NEW DELHI: Even as the PMO is working to facilitate investments by chemicals giant Dow in India by resolving the issue of its ‘legal liability’ in the Bhopal gas tragedy, a group of 20 US Senators have pleaded that Dow be held responsible for the disaster.
The senators wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March 2006 seeking justice for Bhopal gas victims and demanded that Dow Chemical, the parent company of Union Carbide, too be held responsible.
This is in contrast to the government’s decision to ask the department of chemicals and petrochemicals to formulate a Cabinet note in order to probe the possibility of resolving the legal liability of Dow outside the courts.
The department has, in an ongoing case in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, demanded that Dow pay Rs 100 crore as advance for the clean-up of the affected area. TOI had reported moves by the finance and commerce ministers, supported by PMO and other senior officials, to find ways about this demand in order to facilitate investments by Dow.
In the letter to PM, American legislators, including well-known Indian Caucus members Frank Pallone Jr and Joseph Crowley, said, “It is difficult to understand why few steps have been taken to alleviate the suffering of the Bhopal survivors. The Indian government has repeatedly said that justice will be served, but has exemplified no commitment to this end.”
The letter, which was signed by 20 senators, added that the government must hold Union Carbide and its parent company Dow Chemical responsible for the disaster.
“Although it has been more than 20 years since the disaster, approximately 10-30 people continue to die every month in Bhopal from toxic exposure and around 150,000 people suffer long-term health consequences.
The effect of the toxic gases also appear to be harming the next generation, as overwhelming evidence is surfacing that points to a higher incidence of health effects and birth defects among children born to gas-affected people,” said the letter, adding that the disaster raised fundamental questions about government and corporate responsibility.