Express India, July 15, 2008
Mumbai, July 14 Some Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) alumni have floated an online petition urging organizers of the Golden Jubilee Conference 2008, to be held in New York from July 18 to 20, to refuse sponsorship from Dow Chemical.
Dow Chemical is one the ‘gold’ sponsors of the Golden Jubilee event for which over 600 alumni have registered and are slated to visit New York. In 2001, Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide that caused the industrial disaster in Bhopal in 1984 claiming more than 3000 lives and affecting thousands of others.
At a press conference on Monday, environmentalist Janak Daftari, a ‘75 alumnus, said, “We are extremely disturbed to see Dow Chemicals listed as the gold sponsor for the event. Dow has been barred from recruiting at IIT-B since October last year because of students and alumni outrage regarding Dow Chemical’s treatment of Bhopal survivors. In addition, IIT Kanpur, IIT Madras and IIT Kharagpur have also not allowed Dow to recruit on their campuses.”
The petition signed by over 600 alumni so far and an ‘open letter’ by 43 faculty members of IIT-B have been sent to New York based Anil Kshirsagar and Suresh Shenoy, organizers of the event. “Dow Chemical clearly aims to acquire legitimacy and credibility by forging relations with IITs. The reputation of IITs will certainly be tarnished by any association with Dow Chemical,” the letter states.
Dr Ajit Ranade, chief economist, Aditya Birla Group and the president of the IIT-B alumni association said that he was aware of the online petition. “I think the issue is fairly divisive. The mandate of the IIT-B alumni association is to engage with the activities of the golden jubilee celebration and to help the institute and alumni. Individual alumni are free to express their opinion.”
“We strongly believe that it would be against our national interests to accept or encourage any offers made by Dow Chemical. We also believe that the acceptance of sponsorship would set an incorrect precedent and would wrongly help legitimize Dow’s ongoing attempts to set up alliances with various academic institutions and other national organisations,” said Daftari.