International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal


PRESS UPDATE:


DOW CHAIRMAN LIES TO SHAREHOLDERS ABOUT CARBIDE’S LIABILITIES IN BHOPAL

 

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN, May 8, 2003 -- After a long-awaited meeting with The Dow Chemical Chairman William
Stavropoulos, survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, who are on the eighth day of
their hunger strike, said Dow not only came up with no offers for relief and rehabilitation, but also
openly lied about its criminal liabilities in Bhopal. Speaking at the Annual shareholders meeting,
Stavropoulos claimed that its subsidiary Union Carbide Corporation faces no criminal charges relating
to the Bhopal disaster, and the only outstanding charges were against Carbide’s former chairman Warren
Anderson.

In 1986, the Indian Government’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) pressed charges against Union
Carbide Corporation, its former CEO Warren Anderson, and ten others for manslaughter among other
things. Neither Union Carbide nor Anderson have appeared in India to face trial. However, subsequent to
Dow’s acquisition of Union Carbide in February 2001, the CBI has been directed by the Bhopal court to
include Dow as an accused in the criminal case. At a hearing of the criminal case held last April, the
CBI said it will submit its report on inclusion of Dow in the case by May 30, 2003. If found guilty,
Dow could face penalties that have no upper limit. Such fines are decided based on the the accused
party’s ability to pay and the magnitude of the crime.

The Bhopal delegation demanded that Dow should face criminal charges in India; release medical
information relating to the toxic gases, arrange for long-term medical monitoring and rehabilitation,
clean up the contaminated factory site and provide economic and social support to the survivors of the
disaster.

On the issue of ongoing contamination due to the toxic wastes abandoned by Union Carbide in and around
its factory premises, Stavropoulos maintained that the Government of India was responsible for cleaning
up Carbide’s pollution. “We are very concerned, but we have our responsibility to our shareholders,” he
said.

John Musser, the company’s public relations advisor, said the company has not seen a copy of the lease
agreement for the Bhopal factory site between the Madhya Pradesh State Government and Union Carbide
that requires Carbide to return the grounds to the Government in its original condition.

At the question-answer session of the AGM, Bhopal survivor Mrs. Champa Devi raised the issue of double
standards inherent in Dow’s acceptance of Carbide’s asbestos liabilities in the US while ignoring its
responsibilities in Bhopal. Stavropoulos responded to the question saying that the two cases were
different. Addressing his shareholders in Midland, Michigan, at a meeting that was webcast live,
Stavropoulos said Dow had addressed the asbestos liabilities because it was the subject of an ongoing
litigation, while no such litigation existed in the case of Bhopal.

Besides the criminal case in Bhopal, victims and survivors organizations have reopened a class action
suit in New York on the issue of contamination by approaching the Appeals Court on April 25. The case
appeals against a decision by Judge Keenan of the Southern District Court of New York dismissing claims
filed asking Union Carbide to clean up the toxic wastes in Bhopal and compensate people affected by
consumption of contaminated water.

“We weren’t expecting Dow to live up to its rhetoric about “responsible care” and care for the
environment and communities. But what shocked us was that the chairman of the world’s largest chemical
corporation could lie about criminal liabilities faced by Carbide in Bhopal to its shareholders,” said
Mrs. Rasheeda Bee, a survivor and leader of the Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Workers
Association. “The Bhopal legacy will be Dow’s next asbestos debacle,” she said referring to the crisis
Dow faced when unanticipated asbestos liabilities from Carbide’s past forced the company to set aside
$2.2 billion to address future claims.

“We will travel to Washington D.C. from here and continue to mobilize public opinion against Dow
Chemical. In the months ahead, Dow will be rightfully painted as the posterchild of the worst abuses of
globalization,” said Satinath Sarangi, a long-time activist from Bhopal who is currently travelling in
the US. Sarangi too is on the eighth day of a fast for justice in Bhopal.

On December 3, 1984, a poisonous gas leaked from Carbide’s pesticide factory in Bhopal killing 8000 in
its immediate aftermath. More than 500,000 were exposed, and at least 150,000 remain chronically ill.
Union Carbide fled the country after paying $470 million in compensation, but leaving behind thousands
of tons of toxic wastes that have since entered the groundwater and contaminated the breast milk of
mothers living near the factory site. Survivors of the disaster received less than $500 in compensation
for lifelong injury and upto $2000 for loss of life.

For more information, visit: www.bhopal.net
Or contact:
Nityanand Jayaraman (USA). Cell: 520 906 5216 Email: nity68@vsnl.com
Rachna Dhingra (India). Tel: 0755 2747983. Email: rachna@umich.edu
Tim Edwards (UK). Email: tim@lifecycle.demon.co.uk