Times of India, July 15, 2008
NEW DELHI: Alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) have criticised the institution for accepting Dow Chemical Company as one of its sponsors.
Dow is the current owner of Union Carbide, whose plant leaked toxic gas killing 3, 500 people in Bhopal in 1984.
IIT Mumbai has accepted Dow as its gold sponsor for its golden jubilee celebrations this year, sparking protests among its alumni.
Praful Bidwai, a columnist and an alumnus of IIT, said the premier institute should in no way associate itself with Dow.
“About 500 alumni of IIT Mumbai and 43 faculty members have written letters to the organizers of the IIT Golden Jubilee conference, basically condemning the association of Dow Chemical Company with the programme of the conference as a sponsor, as a high profile gold sponsor,” Bidwai said.
Bidwai also said that any association with Dow would harm national interests.
“We strongly believe that it would be against our national interest to accept or encourage any offer by the government. We also believe that the acceptance of the sponsorship from Dow for the 2008 golden jubilee conference for July 18-19 would only help to legitimize Dow’s ongoing efforts to set up alliances with various academic institutions, forty-three faculty members have signed unprecedented letter,” he said.
Over 3,500 people died in the days and weeks after toxic fumes spewed out of a pesticide plant in Bhopal on the night of December 2, 1984.
Officials say nearly 15,000 people have died from cancer and other diseases since then.
Activists have put the toll at 33,000 and claim that toxins from thousands of tonnes of chemicals lying in and around the site have seeped into ground water.
Union Carbide in 1984 accepted moral responsibility for the tragedy and established a 100 million dollars charitable trust fund to build a hospital for the victims. Later Union Carbide was taken over by Dow Chemicals.
The company also paid 470 million dollars to the government in 1989 in a settlement reached after a protracted legal battle.
The victims were paid 25,000 rupees in case of illness and 100,000 rupees or so to the next of kin of those killed.
Michigan-based Dow Chemical says it is not responsible for the clean up as it never owned or operated the plant. The Madhya Pradesh state government now owns the abandoned plant.