Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
300 survivors of the December 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal protested at the Chembur office of Dow Chemical International Private Ltd. today demanding that Dow take on the outstanding liabilities left behind by the Union Carbide Corporation in Bhopal.
Union Carbide Corporation merged with The Dow Chemical Company on February 6th, 2001 to create the second largest chemical company in the world. Union Carbide - which is now a 100% owned subsidiary of Dow and its former Chairman, Warren Anderson have been absconding charges of homicide, grievous assault and other serious offences in the Indian courts for the last nine years, concerning the poisonous gas leak from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal on the night of December 2nd/3rd 1984.
The spirited 300-strong group of survivors, mainly women, and many of them elderly widows, marched to the Dow office at Corporate Park in Chembur at around 9.00 this morning. Armed with balloons filled with red paint and banners denouncing Dow and Union Carbide, and fuelled by 16 years of systematic neglect, they took Corporate Park security and the Dow staff completely by surprise.
The dripping red paint created a macabre backdrop on the black reflective glass of the Dow office as the survivors chanted slogans and sang songs of justice, raising their clenched red fists high in the air. "We are nothing to do with Union Carbide," said Dow staff and at first refused to accept the survivors memorandum to Michael D. Parker, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Dow Chemical Company based at the U.S headquarters in Midland, Michigan.
The survivors however would not give up. They became even more determined to make their demands heard and sat defiantly outside the Dow office under the watchful eyes of Chembur police and Dow security for nearly three hours. Finally Rashida Bi, President, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh and Vinod Shetty, Vice President of the Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti, were allowed inside the offices to deliver their memorandum. Mr Cyrus, a Dow executive begrudgingly accepted it on behalf of Mr Ravi Mutukrishnan, Managing Director of Dow Chemical International Private Ltd. and promised that they would meet with survivors tomorrow (Thursday, 1st March) to discuss survivors demands as specified in the memorandum.
Yesterday evening survivors held a public meeting in Chembur, Mumbai one of the most polluted areas of Bombay due to the high concentration of chemical and petroleum factories to officially launch the National Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. Representatives of Bombay trade unions, environmental organisations and students joined survivors and pledged their solidarity in securing justice in Bhopal and also in disrupting Dows current plans for large scale investment in India. The Campaign resolved to initiate a nationwide series of protests against The Dow Chemical Company. A hard-hitting documentary on Bhopal made by Priya K. was also shown at the meeting
"By becoming a Dow subsidiary, Union Carbide is seeking to shake off its hated name", said Balkrishna Namdeo, Convenor of Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal. "But we will not let this happen. DOW NOW HAS THE BLOOD OF THE PEOPLE OF BHOPAL ON ITS HANDS and it must pay for the crimes of Carbide", he added.
Rashida Bi, stated that "on behalf of the National Campaign for Justice in Bhopal we have come from Bhopal to present a memorandum saying that Dow must accept the ongoing medical, criminal, environmental and social liabilities incurred by UCC in Bhopal." She also said that "We are the unlucky ones, the lucky ones are those who died on that night. However, we are alive and so are our organisations and for as long as we are alive, we will fight for justice in Bhopal".
Mr Sarangi explained that the campaign to ban Dursban a household insecticide produced by Dow will be one of the key features of the movements mobilisation against Dow. "Dursban has been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S for its toxic effects on the brain and particularly those of growing children", said Mr Sarangi. Vinod Shetty said that the aggressive promotion of Dursban by Dow in India is a blatant case of double standards. "Union Carbides double standards in safety and health are essentially what caused the disaster. Now Dow is causing slow and silent Bhopals in every household that uses Dursban."
Mr Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action said that he was looking forward to Dows response to their demands tomorrow. However he added that, "if they dont come up with anything positive within the next 15 days then the National Campaign for Justice in Bhopal will respond accordingly. If they continue with their callous attitude towards the suffering of the Bhopal people we will take recourse to more direct action against all their establishments in India."
The National Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
A national network comprising: