Sify, 04 December, 2007
Chennai: Marking the 23rd anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, more than 150 Chennai children aged between 12 and 16 gathered at the central lobby of the Citi Center mall to demand the eviction of Dow Chemical from the premises.
Dow Chemical, the new owner of Union Carbide, has an office in the 6th floor of the mall in the Mylapore area of the city. Union Carbide, which was declared an absconder by a court in Bhopal in 1991, was taken over by Dow Chemical in 2001. Dow has refused to produce Union Carbide in court, even while providing an avenue for Carbide to continue profiting from sales in the Indian market without threat of arrest.
With the help of industry leaders like Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, Dow has managed to win the favour of the Prime Minister’s Office which has promised to write off Dow’s liabilities in Bhopal if the company invests heavily in India.
“We are ashamed of the Government’s stance of welcoming Dow to the country, and want to make it clear to the residents of Bhopal that people believe in their struggle, and the children of Chennai will not sit idle when Dow tries to go about business as usual,” said a spokesperson for “Chennai for Bhopal” the forum which organised the event.
In February 2007, Dow Chemical was fined $300,000 (about Rs 1.2 crore) by a US Government agency for having paid Rs 80 lakhs as bribe to Indian officials to license Dursban, a pesticide that was banned in the US because of its harmful effects on children’s brains. The company continues to market this pesticide.
The children, many of whom are regular visitors to the Citi Center mall, said they would boycott the “unethical” mall and would encourage their friends to do the same. “If the people in control of Citi Center have children, we believe they will take our action in the right spirit and evict Dow from their premises,” the children added.
The children also distributed pamphlets that alerted other shops in Citi Center that their neighbour “Dow Chemical/Union Carbide” was a murderer charged with the murder of more than 8,000 people in the Bhopal disaster.
On December 3, 1984, a poisonous gas leaked from Union Carbide’s underdesigned pesticide factory in Bhopal. At least 5,00,000 people were exposed to the poisonous gas that night. Union Carbide ran away to its home country, the United States of America, leaving behind thousands of tons of toxic wastes in and around its factory premises. The wastes have leached poisons into the groundwater. More than 25,000 people consume the contaminated groundwater for want of a clean alternative. The incidence of birth defects and congenital deformities in the community is alarmingly high.