IIT alumni gang up against Dow Chemicals

Business Standard, New Delhi October 24, 2007
See more on the IIT actions against Dow
Dow Chemicals, the new owners of Union Carbide plant in Bhopal are facing opposition from a new quarters over issues related to Bhopal gas disaster.
Alumni of various Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are now putting pressure on the institutes to prevent campus interviews being conducted by the company. The company was recently forced to cancel its pre-placement talks in IIT Madras and Bombay after students raised the issue about its entry into IIT. Now about 1000 alumni members have sent a petition to the directors of various IITs urging them to bar Dow Chemicals from any partnership or role in the premier institutes of the country.
Magsaysay awardee Arvind Kejriwal and activist Prafool Bidwai, both alumni of IIT said that the public outrage stems from Dow’s continued evasion of legal responsibilities in Bhopal.
“Dow Chemicals not only acquired Union Carbide but also its liabilities as well. The company has to clean-up the toxic waste in Bhopal, compensate the victims of contamination and force its subsidary to face criminal trial in the Bhopal court. Otherwise, Dow will be met with hostility wherever it goes in India,” Bidwai said.
“A separate petition signed by 89 of the faculty and students within IIT Madras urged its director to bar Dow from recruiting students on campus. The company cancelled its pre-placement talks in IIT Madras and Bombay after students raised the issue about its entry into IIT,” they said.
The activists also said that ever since it took over Carbide in 2001, Dow Chemicals has actively shielded the company from the Indian courts even while profiting from the illegal sale of its products in the country. Stating that the company is involved in dishonest and corrupt practices, they said that in early 2007, Dow was caught for paying more than $200,000 in bribes to senior agriculture ministry officilas to expedite registration of three pesticides including the one banned for household use in the US owing to its toxicity.
In 2005, Indian Oil Corporation was forced to cancel a technology contract with Dow after survivors demonstrated that Dow had lied to IOC about the ownership of the technology. It had tried to pass off Union Carbide technology as its own to avoid legal action because of Carbides’ status as an absconder, they said.
Calling upon the students of IITs to bar Dow from entrering their campuses, Bidwai and Kejriwal urged the IITs to set an example by developing a screening criteria for corporations wishing to partner or recruit from IITs. “In the absence of any screeing mechanism in IITs, all kind of companies including those with horrendous environmental and human rights records and those found corrupt and unethical like Dow enter the campuses easily, they said.
Even as Dow is exerting pressure on the Indian government to get all liabilities related to Bhopal waived, the petition says Dow’s motive in forging ties with IIT Madras is merely to acquire credibility to its tainted image.

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