IITians say no to Dow

Silicon India, July 16, 2008
Mumbai: Addressing the media in Mumbai Monday, Janak Daftari, an IIT-B alumni, said: “A group of IIT-B alumni, mostly from Silicon Valley, in total disregard to the sentiments and the callous practices being followed by the firm in their (alumini’s) origin country, has gone ahead and under the aegis of IIT-Bombay Heritage Fund are organizing a two-day golden jubilee function in New York between July 18-20.”
The Bhopal gas tragedy, which is often considered as one of the world’s biggest industrial disasters, took place December 3, 1984. A Union Carbide subsidiary pesticide plant released 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate, which killed more than 3,800 people and affected many thousand more. The Dow Chemicals now owns Union Carbide.
Daftari said that over 1,000 students signed a petition last year urging the IITs to debar Dow from on-campus recruitment or sponsoring programs, “purely because of Dow’s mishandling of its subsidiary Union Carbide’s environmental and criminal liabilities in Bhopal and its disregard for Indian courts.”
He said the company was forced to call off its recruitment plans in Mumbai, Chennai, Kharagpur and New Delhi and “IIT Kanpur and IIT Delhi returned Dow’s sponsorship at the last minute, succumbing to pressure from alumni, faculty and students”.
“It is a sheer irony that in 2005, the organisers of Global IIT Conference in the US, cancelled their invitation to the then CEO of Dow, William Stavropoulos. And here the IIT-B Heritage Fund has gone ahead and not just accepted the sponsorship but has even put the firm at the pedestal of gold sponsor,” Daftari said.
Asked whether IIT authorities have given any approval to the contentious event, Daftari said an invitation has been sent to all senior members of the institution.
“Obviously, the golden jubilee celebration is being done privately but then there is a tacit approval from the senior administrators. After all they are seriously contemplating to attend the event even though scores of faculty members have opposed the sponsorship itself,” he said.
In Delhi, Ravi Kuchimanchi, another alumni, said he, like scores of others, was shocked that the organisers of the conference could even think of associating themselves with a company that has caused such an enormous disaster and given birth to innumerable tales of agony.
“In 1984 when the gas leaked in Bhopal, I and other students in IIT-Bombay were shocked and angry. Today I am shocked to see, instead of forcing Dow to fork up money and clean up the Bhopal site, the organisers of the 50th anniversary celebrations have sought its money. As IIT alumni we can do better,” a disappointed Kuchimanchi said in a press statement in the national capital.

Reader’s comments

Comment 1: Find out more about Dow Chemical’s crimes around the world – including in the US at www.truthaboutdow.org. If you don’t stand up to murderous practices – you can expect to be next. Dow is poisoning people the world over (US included), but strangely many people want the Indian taxpayer to clean up Dow’s messes and expect that Dow’s new operations in India will be GOOD for the country. Those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it.
Posted by : Aquene – Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Comment 2: Its good to see IITians caring for their country……Kick dow hard
Posted by : praveen – Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Comment 3: India does not need Dow Chemical. It has enough resources, enough brains of its own. Dow Chemical needs India, but it is here to exploit. Never forget the famous quote from a Dow executive: “$500 is plenty good for an Indian”. This was $500 compensation for a lifetime of illness and suffering. Corporations like Dow do not belong in India. Kick it out. Kick hard. Kick now.
Posted by : Indra Sinha – Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Comment 4: Great Job from Mr. Daftari. It shows true concerns of prestigious institute students. IIM-A has to learn a lesson from such action. They invited one of the most corrupted politician Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav and clapped and “appreciated” his efforts in running Indian Railways professionally!!! We are indirectly promoting such nuisance values in Indian politics.
Posted by : Vekarman – Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Comment 5: Kudos to IITians!!
If you can,t fight or are not wiling to fight for each and every cause the n be it… it doesn’t mean than that you are not eligble to raise voice for any cause
If every one does his part even for a single thing its enough…
something is better than nothing,
Posted by : KP – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 6: docd – Comment 1 wala. Total chutiya hai. People like him get to their senses when the gora crowd kicks them on their asses and treats them like their slavish dogs. To own thine self be true. When you don’t even have the courage to stand up for your own people what is the use of your life. i am sure your children will walk all over you one day. Chutiya sala.
Posted by : SA – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 7: lets get one thing straight…..these arrangements are purely based on convenience. how many of you
deshbhakts iitians have rejected offers to work in UK and not gone after the lucrative salary
offered by the banks and companies there cos they ruled over us and killed thousands of Indians all of whom just wanted freedom? get real..stop creating a furore to get into the news and score a few
brownie points…if you are that much concerned…then as alumni..why dont u set up a fund
in the first place for the gas tragedy victims and help them out instead of haggling with the
perpetrators? don’t get me wrong..I am one of you…an alum myself..but ne who has woken up…smelled the coffee…and doesn’t seek media attention…
Posted by : docd – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 8: In a response to the criticism, an anonymous spokesperson for the JUbilee organisers has said that the deal with Dow is a “purely financial arrangement.”
Dow is seeking legitimacy by associating itself with IIT. Its earlier events to do so have been thwarted by students, alumni and faculty. If the students of IIT-M, IIT-B, IIT-Kanpur and Kharagpur have it in themselves to reject the Rs. 10.5 lakh pay package offered by Dow purely because they considered the company’s handling of the Bhopal issue to be deplorable, there is no reason why the organisers of the Jubilee Conference cannot strike some other “purely financial arrangement.” If indeed, taking money from a company does not taint the organisers of an event, would Jubilee organisers take money from the Bin Laden Group? The event has as its organisers people like Nandan Nilekani of Infosys. They have remained resoundingly silent on where they stand on this issue. Does Nilekani believe that IIT-B should not be taking money from Dow and how a company behaves should actually define how we should treat it? Dow has perverted the course of law in India. It has refused to subject Union Carbide to the criminal case currently ongoing in Bhopal., where Carbide is an absconder. Other accused in the case such as the Indian officials of Unoin Carbide India Ltd (now Eveready), and Eveready itself have been regular in attending court and cooperating with the system of justice. Only Carbide has cocked a snooked at our court. Dow, which in its capacity as full owner of Union Carbide, could have behaved responsibly by forcing Carbide to attend court has not done so. If it believes in the rule of law, why run shy of the court? why ignore summons? after all, in India, you are believed innocent until proven guilty.
The IIT B jubilee conference organisers have behaved in a deplorable manner, and I can only rejoice in the fact that the likes of Nandan Nilekani, Shenoy and Anil Kshirsagar — who place ethics aside when seeking money — are in the minority. A good vocal majority of IITians seem to take pride in what they will offer their name, skills and legitimacy for.
Shame on the Jubilee organisers.
Posted by : Nityanand Jayaraman – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 9: Namaste. I attended IIT-IDC Bombay and prior to that REC Bhopal at the time of Gas Tragedy; I belong to Bastar, CG (MP) I also attended IIT-Chicago, while a total New Yorker now. As an Architect/ Energy and Environmental Design Consultant assisting global corporations to assess report and reduce their Carbon Footprint, as a founder, director of Indo-US Green Building Council organizing a national forum August 14-15, 2008 in New York celebrating India’s Independence towards creating a combined framework for action on challenges of climate change …
I would like to put the issue in perspective with some authority.
We are talking about the worst industrial disaster of past century.
Dow deserves strong condemnation as it has done only the very least.
Taking over Union Carbide assets but none of the liabilities, Dow washes their hands clean with a legal statement on their website. Few received just compensation (and on an average it was about a paltry $500, less than a fender-bender) After Exxon-Valdez oil spill, each and every bird rescued was washed cleaned, all possible effort was made to restore plants, animals land, water and air. In Bhopal there was no account of crows, cows and dogs that died. They are only in my memory, close your eyes and think of children born with birth defects have the same fate. Back in Bhopal the abandoned pesticide plant is left un-capped and still leaks unknown chemicals.
Boycott and protest would force Dow, now the world’s largest chemical company, to do what’s fair and just. I strongly urge Dow and IIT, and you- to visit the issue in question.
Dow could do a lot more – easily- Dow could immediately disclose the chemical compositions of pesticides produced at the Plant, and such information was suppressed citing proprietary rights. Without such cooperation proper research could not be conducted to mitigate the profound and prolonged effect of the catastrophe.
Dow should create a large dedicated fund/foundation and not shortchange us with trivial sums. How Dow can simply buy such a marketing ploy, I feel mocked at my own cost.
IIT could accept Dow’s fair participation in the event but should return the alms taken in our names. Dow should commit and fund community resource centers, hospitals and institutions to correct what went wrong, what is going wrong.
At Professional Alliance for Technology and Habitat we are committed for a better environment, your feedback is welcome
Makrand Bhoot, Director www.P-A-T-H.org Participate@P-A-T-H.org
Posted by : Makrand Bhoot – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 10: Hats of to IITians! your action has made all Indians proud.
IITians have shown their social and environmental responsibility in a firm way.
All those Union Carbide / Dove directors at the time of tragedy are practically crimnals who have to be brought
to book.
What is even not known was weather it was a tragedy or a planned human experiment to see
what will happen If the chemical is released to environment so the knowledge is of use to “others”.
UC /Dove should be banned from India for 1000 years. It is a shame on Indian govt. to go easy on this tragedy.
Posted by : usindians – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 11: It seems to come down to a decision: Who do you care more about: Bhopal victims or Hi Tech businessmen? If you are a businessman you probably would rather have a Mercedes than poor people on the other side of the world getting health care.
I disagree with the “take it to the extreme” argument that if you care about Bhopal then you have to fight every corporation and country. The Union Carbide leak was the worst humanitarian disaster of our time that was caused by a company. Add to that, the problem can be cleaned up starting tomorrow if Dow wakes up and does the responsible thing.
Human rights crises in Tibet, etc. are severe problems but it is not fair to compare them. This problem is squarely on Dow — if they act, the problem is very solvable. But they stay silent and people keep getting ill.
Posted by : Nog – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 12: A REMINDER for IITB reunion organizers – who made ‘the purely financial arrangement’ —
Suketa Mehta wrote in Village Voice, Dec 3, 1996:: [Big people like you have snatched the peace and happiness of us poor people. You are living it up in big palaces and mansions. Moving around in cars. Have you ever thought that you have wiped away the marriage marks from our foreheads, emptied our laps of children, bathed us in poison, and we are sobbing, but death doesn’t come. Like a living, walking corpse you have left us. At least tell us what our crime was, for which such a punishment has been given. If with the strength of your money you had shot us all at once with bullets, then we wouldn’t have to die such miserable sobbing deaths.You put your hand on your heart and think, if you are a human being: if this happened to you, how would your wife and children feel ? ….] – words of Sajida Bano who’s husband was the first victim of Carbide in 1981. On that 1984 night, she lost her son too. Carbide had their own financial arrangements. You organizers have your own. DOW know very well what they are paying for. Do you organizers know what you are doing ? Hope you sleep well at night.
Till a month ago, I knew little about what had happened in Bhopal. My history books in school didn’t tell me, neither did the grown-ups. I was busy with my own stuff, I accidentally found out about the truth in Bhopal. Its likely that many of the organizers are in the position I was in a month ago – unaware of the real facts and unable to separate ‘fact’ from ‘fiction’.
I request you to pick up a copy of ‘The Bhopal Reader – Apex Press 2005 and find out for yourself the magnitude of the crime committed, the degree of corporate greed and government inaction. Look at the faces of the survivors who say ‘they want justice, not money’. When you see their faces, their debilitated children, you will begin to understand. When you do so, the voice within you will urge you to do the right thing.
The idealists who oppose your stance will forget you eventually – but you will not forget your own ‘financial arrangement’ with the perpetrator of this inhumane crime.
Posted by : Sudipta N. Sinha – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 13: I think the people who are rubbishing the issue of Bhopal gas tragedy were not born in the time the tragedy took place OR maybe they were busy earning money somewhere out of the country to really understand what happened in Bhopal and its after effects. Dow Chemicals has no regard for Indian courts and its laws and its board of directors are enjoying life in the US. If a similar thing had happened in the US, do you think the people there would have taken such a thing lying down? Watch Erin Brokovich.
Posted by : Aditya – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 14: I completely agree with the argument given. At present, the IIT products have made themselves sufficient enough to not look for any funds from such an organization which proved to be a curse for their motherland.
The discussion is about not accepting any favor from the company and there should be no issue of ethics related to the acceptance of their products if they follow all safety norms.
Posted by : Tarun Bansal – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 15: This sanctimonious hogwash that IITians should be part of.. Most are playing into political agenda of the left. The role of Indian government in Bhopal tragedy was far greater than that of Union Carbide.
Please at least get educated on the issues before signing moronic petitions.
Posted by : anurag – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 16: One can sympathies with people of Tibet and Guantanamo and still take jobs from Chinese companies/US companies if one wishes. But comparing Bhopal Gas tragedy which killed and affected so many INDIANS in our own country and refused to obey the courts to compensate the victims to British raj/China oppression/US invasion of Iraq is sheer stupidity. I wonder if those who Oppose the IITans daring step to show a symbolic solidarity against big corporations who profit at our cost but do not take responsibilities of their own actions, would have made the same statements had one of their own had been a victim of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. You can’t protest against all products produced by these big corporations, sure, but you can show your power while taking a job with them if you wish to. I applaud the IITans. The reason why Britishers ruled India for as many years as they did is precisely because of the people in our society who dare not stand up for their own rights and miss opportunities to show their strength in the right forum where it matters.
Posted by : Sunanda – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 17: I am in agreement with Baldy’s comments. Along the same lines, what about refusing any job offers from brand name British companies because Great Britain enslaved us for 200 years, exploited us, killed as well as tortured thousands of freedom fighters, and sent India’s leader of Sepoy Mutinee, Bahadur Shah Jafar, to a Burmese prison to die there……………………
I am also wondering if the IIT protesters ever use any UNION CARBIDE Eveready Battery.
Posted by : Dr. Bidhan Chandra – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 18: The idealism of Mr Daftary and others should be commended. However, if we take these actions to an extreme, are we going to boycott everything made in China because of their treatment of Tibetans? For that matter everything made in the USA because of treatment of detainees in Guantanamo? I agree that Bhopal was a tragedy of immeasurable proportions and needs to be dealt with in the courts. Dow Chemicals products appear almost everywhere. How is one to detect those chemicals that came from Dow in everyday products and then proceed to boycott them? I wonder if Mr Daftary would practice what he preaches by following the prescription of boycotting products that come from companies or countries that have wronged people one time or the other.
Posted by : Baldy – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 19: In short, bull shit!!!
Posted by : Jayeshvee – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Comment 20: I think its a good move ans still IITians should jpoin hands to come up with such initiatives.
Posted by : Guhan – Tuesday, July 15, 2008

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